Local News

Deschutes Co. Sheriff, DA At Odds Over M112

BEND, OR -- Oregon voters will decide Tuesday whether to remove the slavery exception from Oregon’s Constitution. Measure 112 would ban the use of forced labor as punishment for a crime. 

Deschutes County Sheriff and President of the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association (OSSA) Shane Nelson says it puts at risk vital inmate work crews, "I don’t know if anybody who supported Measure 112 went and interviewed anybody who’s been in custody, or ever had an opportunity to work in an inmate work program. But, they do a lot of good for a lot of individuals." Nelson tells KBND News inmates appreciate giving back to their community, "And, a lot of times they can earn some credit on a sentence, which I’m a complete supporter of. But I would never want to see those programs go away as a result of a ballot measure."

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel says he’s talked to hundreds of inmates and expects many will choose to stay on a work crew if Measure 112 passes, "They’ll be voluntary and the vast majority of inmates will choose to do them because there’s benefits to it: they stay busy, they learn skills, they can get time off their sentence."

The OSSA says it would end jail maintenance programs for adults in custody who have not yet gone to trial, like cleaning cells or doing laundry. That argument isn’t enough for Hummel, "I have no doubt that doing away with slavery hurt the bottom line of plantation owners; and that was the argument for slavery, 'look, it’s really good for business.' Are you for slavery or are you opposed to slavery? This is kind of the simplest argument for a ballot measure ever."

He says under the measure inmates could volunteer to work and a judge could sentence them to a work program. But a corrections official could not force them without due process, "Oregon is one of only 10 states with the inmate slavery exception. This is not an unworkable thing. It’ll be fine when it passes; you’ll see every inmate work crew will continue to exist." 

file photo: A Deschutes County inmate work crew cleans graffiti in 2017


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