Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation Wednesday that will require local and regional jails to provide the state with information about the people in their custody, as well as details about the health care inmates receive.
“It is important as we seek to improve health care provided at local and regional correctional facilities that our efforts are based on good data and informed by national best practices,” Brown said in a statement.
The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature with bipartisan support.
Oregon hasn’t comprehensively tracked information about inmates in county jails.
More In This Series
During the course of the next year, OPB, KUOW and the Northwest News Network are teaming up to report on the epidemic of deaths at Northwest jails in our ongoing series “Booked and Buried.”
1) Northwest Jails’ Mounting Death Toll
2) Dead But Not Convicted
3) Suicide Is The Leading Cause Of Death In NW Jails
4) His Son Died In Jail. Seeking Change, He Found An Ally In The Man Who Now Runs It.
5) Washington Jail Practices Put At-Risk Inmates In More Danger, Not Less
6) Oregon Governor Signs Bill To Track Info About Jail Inmates
7) 2 Deaths Highlight Risk For Native American Inmates In NW Jails
In April, OPB, KUOW and the Northwest News Network released an investigation that found since 2008, at least 306 people died after being taken to a county jail in Oregon or Washington.
That information was previously unknown.
The news organizations also found at least 70% of those who died had not been convicted of a crime. The leading cause of death was suicide.
House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, sponsored House Bill 3289. She said people are dying at alarming rates while in jails.
“I am pleased that this legislation has been signed into law by the Governor, and I look forward to seeing the information that it produces,” Williamson said in a statement. “For too long, our state has been in the dark about what is happening within our jails.”
Williamson said the bill is an important step toward much-needed reforms.
The law “directs the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to conduct studies on local and regional correctional facility data collection and provision of health care.”
Brown said the law will help the state better understand barriers to adequate health care for inmates.
“My hope is that we can build the right kind of access to mental health and substance use treatment so that fewer people end up in jail as a result of an addiction or a mental health crisis,” Brown said.
The Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association testified in support of the legislation, but also noted there is no statewide unified computer system for jails, making data collection a challenge.