The number of inmates infected with the coronavirus at the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution near Coos Bay continues to climb. As of Tuesday, 25 inmates have tested positive and another 20 tests are pending.
Shutter Creek, a minimum-security prison, represents more than 70% of the known positive cases across Oregon Department of Corrections facilities. Most of the inmates are set to be released in the next four years.
In addition to the 25 cases, two staff members at Shutter Creek have also tested positive for COVID-19.
Positive cases for inmates on the state's west side have been moved to Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, where the Department of Corrections has two medical isolation units with 108 beds for men and 30 beds for women. Inmates on the east side are also being isolated. The DOC has set up 48 medical beds at the Snake River Correctional Institution in remote Malheur County.
People in prisons and jails are at a greater risk for contracting the virus because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to create enough physical distance to slow the spread of COVID-19.
On average, jails across Oregon have reduced their populations by more than 40% because of the pandemic, according to the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association.
That’s not been the case for prisons like Shutter Creek. Gov. Kate Brown has said she does not plan to release prisoners early en masse because of COVID-19.
Instead, she’s favored a case-by-case approach.
Brown is being sued by a group of inmates who say state government needs to do more to create social distancing in custody.
More than 1,500 inmates are being quarantined, according to the Department of Corrections.