The Oregon Department of Corrections will not be implementing a proposed new phone policy that some lawyers worried would limit access to incarcerated clients.

The new rule, set to go into effect sometime this week, would have required attorneys to prove their clients had a court deadline within 60 days to set up a free, confidential legal call at all correctional facilities in the state.

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Lawyers say current state rules don’t require them to prove a court deadline to set up a call with a client, except at Oregon State Penitentiary.

Attorneys also expressed outrage at any new policy that could limit contact with clients amid the coronavirus pandemic, which had already caused two deaths at Department of Corrections facilities at the time the policy was being considered. The Department of Corrections on Friday reported an additional death of an inmate who had tested positive for the virus.

“After much discussion with DOC’s executive team, legal counsel and feedback from other key stakeholders, the department has made the decision to not implement the AIC [adult in custody] communication rule during the COVID-19 health crisis,” Jennifer Black, the Oregon Department of Corrections’ communications manager, said.

“This means that staff-arranged phone calls will continue to be facilitated as they have been, and there is no requirement for a court date or deadline.”

Black said the Department of Corrections plans to revisit the policy, in some form, after the pandemic.

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