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Oregon, Washington Anticipate Higher Demand For Prison Beds

Chris Lehman


SALEM, Ore. - Corrections officials in Olympia and Salem are bracing for an expected increase in prisoners. The Washington Department of Corrections is predicting a need for 900 more beds in the next four years. And a new report issued Friday confirms an earlier forecast that Oregon will need housing for 2,000 more inmates by the end of the decade.

The two states have a lot in common when it comes to their current corrections systems. Both are expecting an influx of prisoners. A budget crunch has lawmakers in both states scrambling to keep up with the coming demand. Both have closed smaller facilities in recent years.

Oregon lawmakers came close to closing another prison during their February session before finding savings elsewhere. In Olympia, cash-strapped lawmakers put off construction of a new prison to later this decade.

The rising number of projected prisoners is thanks to changes in sentencing laws approved by voters and lawmakers in both states. In Oregon, state analysts say the biggest increase is a result of Measure 57, approved by voters in 2009. The law increased prison time for certain drug and property crimes.

Lawmakers temporarily suspended the measure, but as of January it's back on the books.

On the Web:

Oregon Corrections Population Forecast:

Wash. prison population vs forecast:

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network