Corrections In Oregon


This section of the Crime Victims United web site provides information and context for an informed discussion of corrections policy in Oregon.

Composition of Oregon's Prison Population

Oregon Prison Population - Historical Context

Perspective on the Cost of Prisons

Perspective on Prison Construction

Composition of Oregon's Prison Population

The Oregon Department of Corrections publishes prison population statistics. These tables, from that report, show the composition of the prison population, as of January 1, 2002, by offense type.

Offense Group Count Percentage
Robbery 1518 13.8
Homicide 1459 13.2
Assault 1313 11.9
Sex Abuse 1152 10.4
Rape 1024 9.3
Sodomy 869 7.9
Burglary 828 7.5
Drugs 806 7.3
Other 611 5.5
Theft 422 3.8
Driving 340 3.1
Vehicle Theft 266 2.4
Kidnapping 261 2.4
Arson 84 0.8
Forgery 41 0.4
Escape 37 0.3

Crime Type Count Percentage
Person 8118 73.6
Property 1581 14.3
Statute 1329 12.0

There are approximately 12 reported property index crimes for each reported violent index crime. (Source: Index crimes are those crimes counted in overall crime rate statistics.

Oregon Prison Population - Historical Context

This graph shows the reported violent index rate crime in Oregon and the population of Oregon prisons. Violent index crimes are those crimes included in the F.B.I. violent crime rate index, specifically robbery, aggravated assault, forcible rape and  non-negligent homicide. Crimes not part of the index include kidnapping, other sex offenses and simple assault.

Reported violent index crimes rose from 70 crimes per 100,000 residents in 1960 to 545 in 1979, an increase of 678 percent. During that period, the rate of prison incarceration went from 96 per 100,000 residents to 128, an increase of 33 percent. The increase in the reported violent index crime rate was 20 times greater than the increase in the prison incarceration rate.1

Reported violent index crimes started a steady decline in 1996. By 2001, the  rate was 40% lower than the 1995 rate. Without this decline, there would have been approximately 26,000 additional violent index crimes (robbery, aggravated assault, forcible rape and  non-negligent homicide) from 1996 through 2001.

In November of 1989, the Oregon legislature changed sentencing from an indeterminate system, in which offenders received lengthy sentences but were usually paroled long before the end of the sentence, to a determinate system called Sentencing Guidelines, in which sentences were shorter but offenders were required to serve at least 80% of the sentence.

In November of 1994, Oregon voters approved Measure 11, which set mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes and serious sex crimes. The minimum sentences, which ranged from 5 years and 10 months for Assault II to 25 years for Murder, were roughly two to three times as long as the minimum sentences under Sentencing Guidelines. Measure 11 went into effect on April 1, 1995.

In 1995, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1145, which transferred management of offenders sentenced for 12 months or less (about 15% of the prison population) to the counties, effective January 1, 1997. The plan under SB 1145 was that 75% of those transferred to the counties would serve jail time and 25% would receive other sanctions such as assignment to a work crew or electronic house arrest. (Source: Legislative Fiscal Office Public Safety analysis and Office of Economic Analysis Prison Population Forecast.)

Perspective on the Cost of Prisons

The figures in this section are based on the original legislatively adopted budget for the 2001-2003 biennium as reported by the Legislative Fiscal Office. Although the legislature subsequently changed the budget several times, the original budget is still useful for conveying a sense of the magnitude of expenditures and of the relative expenditures for various programs.


The cost of state prisons in the 2001-2003 biennium was approximately $693 million or 5.6% of the total discretionary budget. This includes $100 million in payments for debt from prison and jail construction and $102 million for education, training, health and other services for prisoners. It includes the budget for inmates serving sentences in county jails. It does not include the budget for juvenile facilities.

By comparison, the budget for all education was $6,949 million or 56.3% of the total discretionary budget.

As of May, 2002, the Department of Corrections quoted the cost per state prison inmate as $62.24 per day ($22,733 per year). This figure does not include debt service (paying for prison construction). Adding debt service gives an annual figure of approximately $27,000.


The legislatively-approved budget allocated $11.4 billion from the general fund (taxes), $600 million from the lottery fund, and smaller amounts from Medicaid and the tobacco settlement. The total discretionary budget for the biennium from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2003 was $12.3 billion.

The Department of Corrections general fund budget was $862 million. The department reports a total operating budget of $915 million (source: May 2002 Quick Facts). This includes money from the general fund and from other sources, such as federal grants and inmate work programs.

The DOC operating budget is 7.4% of the total discretionary budget. This includes $196 million for community corrections (parole, probation and local control of offenders sentenced to one year or less) under Senate Bill 1145. Of that $196 million, approximately $100 million was budgeted for parole and probation. Most of the rest was budgeted for county jail and alternative sanctions for offenders sentenced to one year or less.

We arrived at our figure of $693 million for prisons as follows.

Every biennium, the Department of Corrections computes the cost per day per inmate. For the 2001-2003 biennium, this is $62.24 (source: May 2002 Quick Facts). On an annual basis, this amounts to $22,733 per inmate. As of July, 2002, there were 11,450 inmates in state prisons (source: Office of Economic Analysis). Multiplying the cost per inmate by the number of inmates yields a total annual cost of $260.3 million, or a biennial cost of $520.6 million.

This figure does not include the cost of community corrections for offenders sentenced to one year or less (1,660 as of July, 2002 (source: Office of Economic Analysis)). These offenders do not serve their sentences in state prisons but rather serve in county jails or receive alternative sanctions such as assignment to a work crew or electronic house arrest. Nominally, 75% of these "local control" offenders serve jail time at a cost of $79.25/day or $28,946 per year, for a total annual expenditure of $36 million, or a biennial cost of $72 million. Adding $72 million to $520.6 gives $592.6 million.

However this figure does not include debt service. The budget for debt service encapsulates the total current cost for all past and current prison construction, including the budget for expansion of county jails under SB 1145. Debt service is approximately $100 million for the biennium. We calculate debt service per inmate by dividing this $100 million by 11450 prison inmates and 1245 (75% of 1660) local control inmates. This gives an annual debt service per inmate of approximately $4000.

Adding debt service to the $592.6 million and rounding up gives the $693 million cost for prisons for the biennium. This figure includes $102 million for correctional programs (e.g., health care, education, training, counseling and treatment).

By comparison, education accounts for $6.7 billion or 56.3 percent of the total discretionary budget. In addition, about $1.5 billion from county property taxes also goes to education (source: Cascade Policy Institute).

Oregon 2001-2003 Budget (Original)

Budget Item Budget Amount Percent of total
Total discretionary budget $12,334 million 100.0


$910 million 7.3

Community Corrections (parole, probation, jail)

$195.7 million 1.6

Prison programs (health, education, training, alcohol and drug treatment, etc.)

$101.9 million 0.8

Central Support

$47.5 million 0.4

Institutions (operating prisons)

$405.5 million 3.4

Debt service (paying for prison construction)

$100.0 million 0.8


$11.4 million 0.1


$6,949 million 56.3

K-12 Education *

$5,179 million 42.0

Higher Education

$923 million 7.5

Community Colleges

$475 million 3.9

All Other Education

$372 million 3.0

* A report from the Cascade Policy Institute indicates that K-12 education receives roughly an additional $3.0 billion per biennium from property taxes. 

Perspective On Prison Construction

When the state decides to build a prison, it sells a financial instrument known as a "certificate of participation" (COP) to investors. The investors give money to the state and the state incurs a debt, which it pays off, typically, over a period of 20 to 25 years. The debt service item in the Corrections budget is the biennial amount of these payments. This is approximately $100 million or $50 million per year. This is the "mortgage" payment for all prisons previously built or currently under construction.

The Oregon Department of Corrections designs new prisons to last 100 years (Source: DOC FAQ on recent audits). Prisons built now will be used for the next five generations, but they will be paid off in 20 to 25 years.

In 1996, responding to an expected increase in prison population due to Measure 11 and other factors, the DOC created a 10-year prison construction plan with a price tag of $1 billion. In April 1996, the estimated prison population for July, 2005 was 19,592 (source: audit 98-43). The long range plan called for construction to bring DOC capacity to 19,694 by 2005. But the impact of Measure 11 on prison space turned out to be far less than predicted, violent crime rates dropped, and this estimate turned out to be off the mark. The forecast was also affected by Senate Bill 1145 which took effect in 1997 and mandates that offenders sentenced to 12 months or less (1,660 offenders as of July, 2002) serve their sentences in county jails or under other county supervision. As of October, 2002, the estimate for prison population in July, 2005 is 12,786 (source: Office of Economic Analysis).

The high forecasts led the department to plan too much prison construction and to build too many medium security beds ($75,000 per bed) and not enough lower-cost minimum security beds ($42,000 per bed). (Maximum security beds cost $112,000 per bed.) (Source: audit 98-26.) Instead of 11,791 new beds by July, 2005, the state will need 4,985 new beds (based on 7,801 inmates as of January, 1996). Consequently the prison construction plan has been significantly altered.

The schedules for several prisons were pushed back. As of April, 2002, the plan was to be completed in 2010. In October, 2002, because of revenue shortfalls and budget uncertainty, projects in Lakeview and Madras, which had already been delayed, were put on hold.

As of October, 2002, prison capacity has been increased by 5220 beds since 1996 and the state has taken on $485 million in debt for this construction (Snake River II, Twin Rivers and Coffee Creek). An additional $84 million in debt was taken on for construction of SB 1145 jails, $7 million for expansion of minimum security work camps, $20 million for prison design and construction management, and $18 million for a DOC warehouse.

A 1998 audit (number 98-43) conducted by the Secretary of State's Audits Division said that Oregon's average cost per bed was 1.7 times higher than the national average ($78,000 per bed versus $46,000). According to the DOC, this is explained by the 100- year construction, the need to provide work assignments for prisoners, and requirements of Oregon building codes. Perhaps in response to recommendations in the audit, the construction of the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (April 2000 to July 2002) came in at 23 percent under the original budget.

Current and Planned Department Of Corrections Facilities

The information in this table comes primarily from the Department of Corrections web page and from information provided to Crime Victims United by the DOC. Construction costs for completed projects are actual costs. For future projects they are DOC estimates.

NOTE: The open dates for future projects are from the April, 2002 long range plan. In October of 2002, most plans were put on hold pending resolution of the state's budget shortfalls.






Construction Costs

Custody Level






Oregon State Penitentiary





Maximum security

Furniture factory, metal shop, upholstery shop, or the state's third-largest commercial laundry.

Vocational programs, mental health, religious, and cognitive programs.

Large cell blocks with most inmates housed in double cells

Special units for maximum custody, protective custody, disciplinary segregation, psychiatric, intensive management, death row.


Mill Creek





Minimum security



Dormitory housing for medically of physically challenged

Mill Creek is part of the Santiam Correctional Institution operation.


South Fork Forest Camp





Minimum security

Reforestation, state parks crew, camp support.

Forest work.




Oregon State Correctional






CAD/CAM, furniture refinishing, printing, and telephone services for the Oregon Health Plan.


Mostly two-prisoner cells

Traditionally houses the departments younger inmates, including those remanded to adult prison from juvenile facilities.







Minimum security

Crews contracting with state agencies, local organizations and private industry.

Alcohol and drug, and cognitive and educational.


Facility was acquired from the U.S. General Services Administration at no cost to Oregon taxpayers. Dormitory-style housing.


Eastern Oregon





Medium security

Prison blues denim and commercial laundry facility, food service, clerical, and facility maintenance.

Education, cognitive restructuring, drug and alcohol, parenting, HIV, mental health.


Approximately 1,000 inmates have received either a GED certificate or an adult high school diploma since 1986.


Powder River

Baker City




Minimum security

Community service, fire crews.

Drug and alcohol treatment, group counseling, family therapy.


Pre-release center.


Shutter Creek

North Bend




Minimum security

Public service in forests, parks, highways, and beaches.

SUMMIT boot camp program (cognitive change, education, substance abuse education and treatment).




Columbia River





Minimum security

Community service work projects, institution support and maintenance work.

Educational and cognitive skills classes.100 person unit for voluntary alcohol and drug treatment program.




Snake River Phase I





154 minimum,  510 special



Discrete housing units

510 special housing beds include administrative segregation, disciplinary segregation, intensive management, infirmary and special management units.


Snake River Phase II




$175 million

Medium security



Discrete housing units



Two Rivers




$144 million

Minimum and medium security






Coffee Creek




$133 million

432 bed intake
center, 820 multi-custody



Cell and dormitory



South Fork Forest Camp





Minimum security






Powder River

Baker City










Shutter Creek

Baker City












2004 ?


$29 million

Minimum security




Project is on hold pending budget decisions.




2004 ?



Minimum security




Project is on hold pending budget decisions.


Junction City

Junction City

2005 ?



Minimum security




Project is on hold pending budget decisions.




2006 ?



Medium security




Project is on hold pending budget decisions.


White City

White City

2009 ?



Minimum security




Project is on hold pending budget decisions.

JUNC-2 Junction City Junction City 2010 ? 1080   Medium security       Project is on hold pending budget decisions.


White City

White City




Medium security




Project is on hold pending budget decisions.

Prison Construction And Crime Rates

This graph shows that little prison construction was done from 1960 through 1984. This reflected an anti-incarceration philosophy, even in the face of dramatically rising crime. Current prison construction is a consequence of the 1994 decision by Oregon voters to respond to historically high levels of violent crime, legislative initiatives to deal with repeat property criminals, and increasing population.

Two facilities are not shown on the graph: the Oregon State Penitentiary, which opened in 1866, and the Mill Creek Correctional Facility, which opened in 1929.

The crime rate data from 1960 through 1999 comes from the Bureau of Justice Statistics web page. The data for 2000 and 2001 comes from the Oregon Law Enforcement Data Systems. The Oregon population data comes from the U.S. Census department.

The violent crime index counts robbery, aggravated assault, forcible rape, and non-negligent homicide. The property crime index counts burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

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