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Oregon's Jail Population Down 45% During COVID-19 Crisis

<p>Clackamas County Jail staff, like those at many other Northwest jails, are working with people in difficult situations while dealing with a lack of funding and overcrowding.</p>

Conrad Wilson

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Clackamas County Jail staff, like those at many other Northwest jails, are working with people in difficult situations while dealing with a lack of funding and overcrowding.

COVID-19 has brought major changes to the Oregon’s criminal justice system. Many jails across the state have made efforts to reduce the number of inmates in their facilities.

The average daily population of Oregon's county jails has dropped nearly 45% since COVID-19 forced widespread societal changes in March, according to the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association.

Fewer people are being arrested and coming into jails. In some cases, vulnerable people have been released. The sheriffs association said the majority of jails are providing single cells for every inmate.

So far, no inmates in the county jails have tested positive for the virus. But only small number — a total of 17 of the thousands still behind bars — have been tested.

At least four sheriff’s deputies either have the virus or are being monitored and quarantined.

Inmates in prisons and jails are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 because social distancing measures are difficult to achieve there.

This week, the Oregon Department of Corrections reported a spike in prison cases. A total of 25 inmates and staff have now tested positive.

There are cases linked to the Two Rivers Correctional Institution, Santiam Correctional Institution, Shutter Creek Correctional Institution and the Oregon State Penitentiary.

As of this week, DOC has tested more than 60 prisoners.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting