MADRAS, OR -- Hundreds of inmates at the Deer Ridge Correctional Institution in Madras were on the move, earlier this week. Nearly 800 prisoners, along with their belongings, walked from the minimum-security facility, across the parking lot to the medium-security side. Betty Bernt, with Oregon’s Department of Corrections, admits it’s a little unusual. "It’s a unique step. I don’t believe it’s ever happened in the past, where we built a large facility then didn’t end up using part of it and then kind of repurposed both sides for different uses. It’s unique; we’re kind of doing it as we go along, but I believe it’s a great opportunity to utilize the space we do have there."
A recent state report shows there will be a need for more prison beds in the coming year. Deer Ridge’s medium facility can house up to 200 more inmates. Bernt tells KBND News, "In the minimum institution, there was no more capacity, so we were kind of full in the minimum facility. And, our population may be increasing, so we were preparing for that. So, we shifted into the medium facility just to get more capacity; just more room for more bodies, eventually."
She says the now vacant minimum side will still be utilized. "The plan is to use it for programming space – different classes that might need to take place. Then, Oregon Corrections Enterprises, it falls under the Department of Corrections, but they’re their own little entity. They do different business opportunities, like building furniture or laundry operations, things like that. I don’t know what their plan is for it yet, but they’ll probably utilize some of that space to do inmate work programs."
Staff helped 774 inmates make the move, Tuesday. Bernt says they will still be treated as minimum-security prisoners in the medium facility, and it will be staffed as such.