Can We Correct Oregon’s High Corrections Costs?

Photo Credit: Mavis/

Photo Credit: Mavis/

By Brandon Maxwell

Behind Oregon’s cultural mystique lies a troubling truth: Compared with similar-sized states, we have one of the fastest growing prison populations in the nation and spend 7.5 percent more per inmate than the national average. Of the fourteen states with populations between two and five million people, ten of them spend less per inmate than Oregon. Where is the money going?

According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, entry-level correctional officers in Oregon take home 24 percent more annually than surrounding states. Likewise, Oregon is the only state that doesn’t require union correctional workers to contribute to their own health plan premiums. As a result, taxpayers carry the burden.

Union wages and benefits aren’t the only things rising―so is the average age of inmates. $21,000 in outside health care costs can be attributed annually to the average inmate over 46. Oregon taxpayers are not only footing the health care bills for aging union members, but for aging prisoners.

Making Oregon a right-to-work state would open the door to performance-based pay through competition, and medical parole reform would curtail Oregon’s aging inmate population. Both could save taxpayers money while arguably improving efficiency in the correctional system.

Oregon taxpayers have a right to be concerned about high prison costs. But until we confront and remedy the causes behind the costs, Oregon’s financial burden will only continue to rise.

Brandon Loran Maxwell is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in State Budget | Tagged , , , , | 38 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • JackLordGod

    It would be good to see a little more detail on the medical number given here. What is the $21,000 in outside health care costs? Id that a few prisoners needing a heart transplant and most not needing much, therefore resulting in a high but skewed average, or is there really that much outside medical help involved on a per prisoner basis?

    I don’t really see how medical parole would do much here. The kind of person paroled due to medical conditions does not exactly get out of prison and immediately get a job as an investment banker or lawyer. Likely they are older prisoners and once paroled have a very hard time finding a job and go straight onto welfare. Yes, it is possible that OHP medical costs outside a prison are less expensive than total costs to deliver medical treatment to someone in prison. However the bulk of the costs would likely be transferred from one account on the balance sheets to another.

    Union workers paying for part of their health care? Obviously this needs to be done. We are a high unemployment state. Super cush benefits, such as Oregon has throughout its state employee system, are really only needed for worker retention. Clearly there is no reason with the economic conditions we have to be laying out the red carpet in the way we do. Don’t like the benefits? There are plenty of others willing to do your job. Oregon does not need to be listed at or near the top of every list of union scams, such as state pick ups like health care.

    • 3H

      “We are a high unemployment state. Super cush benefits, such as Oregon has throughout its state employee system, are really only needed for worker retention. Clearly there is no reason with the economic conditions we have to be laying out the red carpet in the way we do.”

      How would cutting back on benefits help our unemployment rate? You seem to be implying that the two are connected in some fashion.

      And how on earth is health care pickup a scam? Unless you’re using the word differently than I would, I see it as a benefit that was negotiated. No scam there.

      • JackLordGod

        >You seem to be implying that the two are connected in some fashion.

        Please read what you are responding to before responding, it saves a lot of time. I never said, in any way, in any post, that cutting benefits helps our unemployment rate.

        What I said is, that with a high unemployment rate, there is no need to offer solid gold benefits in order to retain workers.

        >And how on earth is health care pickup a scam?

        Again, read before responding. It saves a lot of time. The health care pick up is a scam in that no other state seems to have to indulge in this in order to retain workers.

        Assignment – Work on reading skills, actually reead what you are responding to before typing away. Make sure the brain is engaged before putting the mouth in gear in others words. Thanks.

        • 3H

          Hence the word “seem” and “implying”; I didn’t claim you said anything. Take your own advice Rupert, and save time by reading more closely.

          I don’t see how paying the full medical benefits for public employees raises to the level of a scam. You might think it’s wrong, or unneccesary, but it certainly is not a scam. Unless you believe that paying a decent wage and good benefits is a scam.

          LOL.. as for your “assignment”, you really should take your own advice.

          Hint: when you get all pretentious and insulting (which I don’t understand since I wasn’t getting insulting towards you) you just make yourself look foolish.

          Obviously asking questions for clafification threatens you in some way? A calm and nice debate angers you? Maybe you just don’t like the idea of someone disagreeing with you. I don’t know, I’ve given up trying to figure out what makes you behave like an ass sometimes.

  • 3H

    Sometimes it almost seems as if Cascade feels that the solutions to many of our issues in Oregon is to lower wages and cut benefits. At least I don’t have to worry about which side y’all fall on. 😉

    • IICU in need of remedial help

      Your mystique fabricates on… monsieur Tripe-well what the H!

      • ICU three aches

        replace fabricates with flatuents and so on….

  • ,

    de plane de plane the scofflaws at fantasy devils island…

    • .

      gth 3H! All hail, its where you and DA bong, undoubably, you demwit sashay hay cedes!

  • zanzara2041

    The law is irrelevant in today’s society. Treat the prisoners like the state treats illegal aliens–grant them amnesty, give them health care and pay their tuition. Voila! Prison costs go down.

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