The Oregon House passed a bill 55-2 on Tuesday that could help them better understand the rising death rate in county jails.

Booked And Buried
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.


The legislation follows an investigation by OPB, KUOW and the Northwest News Network, which revealed that 306 people have died in Oregon and Washington jails since 2008. Many had not been convicted of a crime. The leading cause of death was suicide.

Oregon and Washington do not comprehensively track the number of people who die in jails.

House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, who sponsored HB 3289, said she wants to change that.

“Having access to the necessary information is one step towards helping us tackle this issue of rising jail deaths,” she said on the House floor before Tuesday’s vote.

The bill would direct the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to study a range of issues, including how the state collects data. The measure now heads to the Senate.

The Oregon State Sheriffs Association has testified in committee in support of the legislation. But also noted there is no statewide unified computer system for jails, making data collection a challenge.