Staff shortage: 200 inmates moved to medium-security prison
In response to shortages of both staff members and the prison population, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility is in the process of moving nearly 200 adults in custody to a medium-security facility. Coffee Creek is considered a minimum-security prison.
The move was first reported by Willamette Week.
The process began Monday, Sept. 27, when 94 people in Coffee Creek were moved. Following the transition of the first group, who all tested negative for COVID-19 and are being housed in the same unit for two weeks, a second group of 100 people will undergo the same process.
Coffee Creek Public Information Officer Mackenzie Kath explained that staffing shortages have led the prison to institute a mandate of two overtime shifts and that the move will allow it to close down two housing units and reduce the number of shifts needed to cover security and kitchen duties. In turn, staffers won't have to work overtime as much. The prison is looking to hire 30 correctional officers, Kath said.
"We have had a small number resign because the mandatory overtime is not working for them in their personal lives and work-life balance, and you feel very bad about it," Kath said. "This is why we're doing this. We care about our staff and we want them to enjoy their jobs and life outside of work, too."
The people who will remain at the minimum-security facility are staying largely because they are in programs like drug and alcohol treatment that are only available at that site. As for the transfers, the move means many of them will switch from a dormitory setting — which is an open area with bunk beds, books and exercise equipment — to cells. Most of the cells hold two people. The people in medium-security prisons are also sometimes allowed to go into the yard, exercise rooms and classrooms.
"Some people really prefer a dorm and some prefer a cell. And some switch back and forth," Kath said.
One reason Coffee Creek is able to make the move, Kath said, is that the overall prison population of 816 is down about 30% from normal and the female prison population in Oregon (all housed at Coffee Creek) is the lowest it has been since 2013. This means that the medium facility will not be at capacity even after the transition is complete.
Coffee Creek is hosting a job fair Nov. 13 at the Clackamas Community College campus in Oregon City, where it's hoping to attract applicants with good communication skills and who pay attention to detail. They are open to a wide variety of backgrounds. Hired employees must undergo a six-week training as part of the process.
"We encourage people from all career backgrounds to apply. Coffee Creek is looking for good humans with communication skills who want to help their community. We offer great pay and even better benefits with extensive training and opportunity for growth," Kath wrote via email.
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