The Staggering Cost of Mandatory Minimums

One of Oregon’s major spending priorities is factory-scale facilities for storing prisoners; only 4% of budget devoted to rehabilitative programs


Compare: Department of Corrections biennial $1.616 billion exceeds the 2015-17 Legislatively Adopted Budget for State Support for Public Universities (4-year) at $1.568 Billion

The Department of Corrections (DOC) has two primary functions – the operation of prisons and the state responsibility for the community corrections system. The Department operates 14 institutions for the incarceration of adult and certain juvenile felons sentenced to prison for more than twelve months by the courts. The budget is based on the April 2015 prison forecast and other changes made by the Legislature during the 2015 session that affect the prison population. The community corrections system is based on SB 1145 (1995) which transferred management of offenders sentenced or sanctioned to incarceration of 12 months or less, and all felony offenders under community supervision, to the counties. Funds are provided to counties for the costs of supervising these offenders.

Budget Environment
In 2011 and 2012, the Governor established a Commission on Public Safety for “analyzing Oregon’s sentencing and corrections data, auditing existing policies, and submitting recommendations that will protect public safety while containing corrections costs and holding offenders accountable.” The Commission’s work culminated in the passage of HB 3194 (2013). The measure made changes to felony marijuana offenses, felony driving while suspended or revoked, and the Measure 57 crimes of robbery in the third degree and identity theft. Additionally, the measure increased the transitional leave period from 30 days to 90 days prior to inmate discharge and provided for dispositional downward departure for certain Measure 57 crimes where the inmate is a repeat offender.

All of these changes were anticipated to result in a reduction of offenders incarcerated in DOC facilities and to increase the amount distributed to the community corrections departments of counties for probation, post-prison supervision, and local control. The reduction in offenders would, in turn, defer the need for new prison construction for a minimum of five years. The 18-month experience during 2013-15 shows a downturn in population compared to what it would have been without the passage of HB 3194. It should be noted, however, that DOC will continue to use emergency beds to meet its capacity needs.

The following display shows the expected population without HB 3194 (green line), actual population from January 2013 to July 2015 (black line), and the expected population according to the April 2015 population forecast developed by the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (orange line). The top solid, red line is the population level that would require the opening of a new prison on the Junction City site. The dotted line in the center represents the population level at which remaining areas of the Deer Ridge facility would need to be prepared and used to house minimum security male offenders and at which Oregon State Penitentiary – Minimum (OSPM) would need to be activated and used for female offenders. Actual population numbers will determine if one, both, or neither facility needs to be used.

With respect to females, the current and expected populations are quite close to maximum for the Coffee Creek Correctional facility. The Legislature directed DOC to report back regularly on actual female population, especially in view of potentially activating the OSP Minimum facility.

As a potential offset, HB 3503 diverts certain offenders from prison, if they are in custody [sic – “have custody”] of their children at the time of their offense and if the offense qualifies for diversion. The subject offenders are to remain in their communities and be provided with enriched services – parenting training, addiction and mental health treatment, vocational training, education, and life skills as appropriate – such that the offenders can maintain a bond with their children and that the intergenerational cycle of criminality can be interrupted. The bill is a pilot program in five counties and expectations are that up to 120 offenders would be diverted from prison. [Emphasis added.]

DOC has depended on “emergency beds” to meet its capacity needs for many years. These beds are generally additional beds in dormitory-like settings in minimum security facilities or additional beds in what had been single bed cells. In a few cases, a new unit has been added in space originally designed for another purpose.

DOC states that it has generally reached the limit for double occupancy cells in its system. There still remain the special unit beds where double occupancy cells are not always feasible and some single cells exist for those with special needs. All facilities, except the Oregon State Penitentiary, will have almost all available cells at double occupancy. Structural load issues prevent the double occupancy use of the remaining single occupancy cells at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Under the current population management plan, which the agency uses to determine what units should be used and when they should open, it is anticipated that all 964 emergency beds will be used during the 2015-17 biennium. Short-term work camp beds may also be added as forest related work needs arise.

The estimated cost per day calculation based on the 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget is $94.55, or a 3.9% increase from the 2013-15 biennium’s $90.97, which was calculated based on appropriations through February 2014. It should be noted that the cost per day varies from institution to institution due to a number of factors including the age of facility, seniority of staff, size and characteristics of the population, programming at each facility, and the security level. The cost per day is a “snapshot” and will change depending on the number of inmates and change in the budget during the biennium. The cost per day is an outcome of the given budget; it is not an input used to develop a budget. The total costs included in the calculation are $1.066 billion total funds.

The components of the cost-per-day are reflected in the following display. What this chart does not include is the community corrections budget; debt service for the agency’s facilities; department-wide costs of administering the agency, including the overall management; state government service charges; financial and personnel staff; and information systems costs. The total cost excluded from the calculation is $550.2 million total funds. [Emphasis added]

For context, the following display shows average cost per inmate per day from 1997-99 to the 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget.


Up 54%; Portland-Salem Consumer Price Index 1998 = 167, 2015 = 244 (up 46%)

Based on the April 2015 corrections forecast, DOC anticipates the felony probation and parole/post- prison supervision caseload to total 33,055 by the end of the 2015-17 biennium, resulting in a community corrections mandated caseload increase of $26 million over the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was authorized in 2003, but the U.S. Department of Justice did not release implementing rules until 2012. The Act applies to public and private institutions that house adult or juvenile offenders. Both DOC and the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) have developed plans to address requirements for safety, facility oversight, training, and audits. Using existing resources, DOC has achieved the following, since the 2012 rules were issued:

       PREA training for all staff, contractors, and volunteers.

       Education for the inmate population on their rights to be free from sexual abuse and harassment, and how to report.

       Closer initial screening to determine potentially vulnerable or aggressive inmates.

       Improvements in handling vulnerable or aggressive inmates with respect to housing, jobs, and program assignments, to ensure their separation.

       Monitoring for retaliation against inmates who report.

       Development of an advocacy program.
As of September 2015, eight facilities have passed their PREA audits. Six facilities will be audited in 2016. Of a total $14 million in authorized Article XI-Q bond issuance for deferred maintenance and security needs, $1.6 million will be directed to upgrading or replacing security cameras in support of PREA requirements.

There is no specifically identified funding for PREA implementation, nor dedicated staff. Existing resources are currently used. The risks to the agency is potential failure to pass audits, which would reduce any U.S. Department of Justice funding by 5%, or DOC’s being liable for an actual PREA incident occurring, which would subject DOC to damage recovery costs.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The following display is the total funds budget by division for the Department.

The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget of $1.616 billion total funds is 4.8%, or $74.2 million, greater than the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget. The budget includes the following:

       Support for the Department’s staff wellness initiative that adds 33 positions in the Operations Division to reduce the use of overtime.

       General Fund to accommodate the April 2015 population forecast, which includes adjustment for the second biennium impact of 2013’s HB 3194.

       Bond funding for deferred maintenance projects.

       Support for two information technology projects.

       Technical adjustments to centralize print services.

       New positions at no additional cost due to redirecting existing Department resources.

       General Fund to support the pilot project in HB 3503.

       General Fund reductions in recognition of statewide limited General Fund availability. The reductions are taken in Operations ($13.3 million), Health Services ($1.7 million), and Community Corrections ($5.2 million). Operations and Health Services are expected to meet the reduction targets through holding vacancies and other personal services actions. No positions are eliminated.

These issues are discussed in more detail in subsequent sections.

Program Description
The Operations Division is responsible for the security and operation of the 14 existing adult correctional institutions. Functions of this Division include institution operations, security, food service, inmate work, inmate intake, and inmate transportation.

Revenue Sources and Relationships
The Other Funds revenues originate from a variety of sources including: services provided by inmate work crews, meal tickets, and canteen sales; sale of items produced by inmate work and training programs; and Inmate Welfare Fund revenues received from inmates or inmate-related sources such as coin operated telephones, canteen profits, vending machines, and copiers.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget of $730.5 million total funds is 1.2% higher than the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget. This budget includes the following:

       The addition of 33 new correctional officer positions to address staff wellness by reducing overtime and to simultaneously achieve a post-relief factor of 1.72, as recommended by a recent Association of State Corrections Administrators study. The total cost is $5.2 million General Fund.

       $3.1 million General Fund to accommodate an increased caseload in the April 2015 prison population forecast, compared to the April 2014 forecast.

       An unspecified reduction of $13.3 million General Fund to be addressed through management actions and/or additional vacancy savings to reach a statewide budget balancing target. [Emphasis added.]

Program Description
Health Services is organizationally part of the Operations Division, but has been designated as a separate budget unit due to its size. It includes the health services employees that provide services at all of the DOC prisons. The level of service varies significantly with a much more extensive set of services at larger facilities like the Oregon State Penitentiary and Snake River. While most of the health services are provided by DOC employees and contractors inside the prisons, some services are provided by community hospitals and providers. The agency estimates that 95% of the services are provided at a DOC facility; but the costs of the remaining 5% of services, which are provided outside of DOC facilities, is roughly 33% of the total Medical unit’s spending. This budget unit also includes the mental or behavioral health program which provides a range of services addressing problems dealing with mental illness, developmental disability, and co-occurring disorders (mental illness and substance abuse).

As shown in the following display, healthcare costs have risen significantly due to increasing population, aging population, and a population that arrives at DOC largely having had very poor health care. In addition, a disproportionately large segment of offenders are infected with Hepatitis C. Recently a new drug has become available that is a significant improvement over previous therapies; it will not cure Hepatitis C, but it features improved symptom management over previously available remedies, with significantly reduced negative side effects. Its cost is upwards of $70,000 per treatment for eligible inmates, who are in the latter stages of the disease. The 2015-17 current service level budget funds both the costlier drug and higher usage by inmates. [Emphasis added.]

Revenue Sources and Relationships
Other Funds revenue is generated from charges to inmates to offset the cost of dentures and some vision-related services. Federal Funds are from the federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) to offset General Fund needs for incarceration of illegal aliens. This SCAAP grant, however, funds a very small percent of the total costs of incarcerating illegal aliens.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget of $238.5 million total funds is 8.6% greater than the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget. This budget includes the following:

       $3 million to accommodate the increased caseload identified in the April 2015 population forecast, as compared to the April 2014 forecast.

       $500,000 General Fund to begin conversion of inmate health records to electronic format.

       Four additional positions to help meet increasing mental health demands.

       The current service level budget provided extraordinary inflation for all medical costs, including significantly more expensive treatment for Hepatitis C.

       An unspecified reduction of $1.7 million General Fund to be addressed through management actions and/or additional vacancy savings to reach a statewide budget balancing target.

Program Description
This budget provides funding to counties for administering the community corrections program. DOC has taken over this responsibility for two counties – Douglas and Linn. Under SB 1145 (1995), the community corrections program was restructured to establish state/local partnerships, and shift resources and control for community corrections to the counties. The Grant-in-Aid is based on the number and risk levels of offenders to be managed. Three groups are funded through this program:

       Felony Probation – Those individuals sentenced for a felony to probationary supervision instead of incarceration in a local or state correctional facility.

       Parole and Post-Prison Supervision – Those individuals that were incarcerated in a state correctional facility, but have been released, and are now supervised in the community corrections system. Individuals who committed their crime prior to November 1989 are placed on parole; post-prison supervision applies to individuals that were sentenced under the sentencing guidelines.

       Local Control – Offenders that are: (1) convicted of a felony and sentenced to incarceration of 12 months or less; (2) revoked from felony community supervision and sentenced to 12 months or less incarceration; or (3) sanctioned to under 30 days for violating the terms of community supervision.

Also included in this budget unit is the funding for reimbursing counties for the jail costs associated with the pre-trial and post-trial incarceration costs for Ballot Measure 73 offenders. In addition, beginning with the 2011-13 biennium, revenue from court fees and fines are distributed to counties for correction programs, facilities, and alcohol and drug programs. In 2015-17, the total from court fees and fines is $4.4 million.

Revenue Sources and Relationships
For the 2015-17 biennium, 81% of the General Fund resources for grant-in-aid to counties will be distributed based on the need for felony probation, post-prison supervision, and parole supervision. The remaining 19% will be distributed for the 2.1% of the population classified as local control. Counties also contribute varying amounts to the community corrections system.

The primary source of Other Funds revenue in the Community Corrections budget is the Criminal Fine Account ($4.4 million) to support distributions to counties for correction programs, facilities, and alcohol and drug programs. This Division also receives supervision fees and other revenues collected by the Linn and Douglas county programs totaling $1.6 million, as well as Inmate Welfare Funds.

Federal Funds revenue is from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance SMART probation grant to develop more effective and evidence-based probation programs. This revenue was inadvertently included; the Department, however, did not receive the grant for 2015-17. The limitation will be unscheduled during the 2016 legislative session.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget of $276.6 million total funds is a 12.9% increase over the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget. This budget includes an increase of approximately $26 million for mandated caseload growth compared to the April 2014 forecast, and a reduction of $5.1 million in jail support payments. To implement HB 3503, $1.9 million General Fund is added to fund grants for the five participating counties – Deschutes, Jackson, Marion, Multnomah, and Washington. The grants are to provide services to assist eligible offenders in their efforts to not reoffend. There is also funding to support administration of the grant program;
1 position is added to evaluate programs, services, systems, and program effectiveness with respect to evidence- based standards, among other duties.


Community Corrections Spending Breakdown

Program Description
The Offender Management and Rehabilitation Services Division seeks to reduce the risk of future criminal conduct by offenders under the supervision of DOC and counties. Through programs including workforce development (e.g., education and cognitive/life skills) and substance abuse treatment, DOC works toward preparing the incarcerated offender for a transition back into the community when released, and to reduce recidivism. This Division is also responsible for administering jail inspections, religious services, sentence computation, inmate classification, victim services, and offender records.


Offender Management and Rehabilitation Breakdown

Revenue Sources and Relationships
Other Funds revenue consists of inmate welfare funds to support alcohol and drug programs; charges for the inmate work; and resources transferred in for education programs from the Department of Education and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget of $77 million total funds is 7.5% higher than the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget. This budget includes increased General Fund for the April 2015 prison population forecast increase and 2 new education positions. In addition, SB 5507 appropriated $400,000 General Fund to the Department of Administrative Services for the Greater Portland YWCA to implement an enhanced visitation and bonding program for children of incarcerated parents. A related budget note directs the Department to cooperate with the YWCA by providing space and personnel to support the program.

Program Description
This section includes three organizational units within the Department of Corrections:

       Central Administration – Includes the Office of the Director, the Office of the Inspector General, the Internal Audits Office, the Government Efficiencies and Communications Unit, Research and Projects, and the Planning and Budget Office. All state government service charges are budgeted in this unit.

       General Services – Includes fiscal Services which provides accounting and contract-related services; information Systems and Services including operations and user support, application development, and system maintenance; distribution Services which provides goods and services to operate facilities across the state including food and canteen supplies; and facilities Services which is responsible for the repair and maintenance program, management of leased facilities, and energy conservation.

       Human Resources staff – Provides agency wide services including labor management, recruitment, employee development, training, employee safety, and risk management.
Revenue Sources and Relationships
Other Funds revenues are primarily generated through commissary sales; General Services’ miscellaneous sales, rentals, and surplus equipment; and debt financed cost of issuance. Federal Funds revenue in the 2015-17 biennium is from a grant related to the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget of $147.7 million total funds is a 6.7% increase from the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget. This budget includes funding for lifecycle replacement of the thin client intranet equipment that accesses educational and law library materials, for increased caseload as calculated in the April 2015 prison population forecast, reductions related to changes in the Attorney General hourly rates and DAS assessments, and technical adjustments to centralize print services costs.

Program Description
Debt service is the obligation to repay the principle [sic] and interest costs of certificates of participation (COPs) and Article XI-Q bonds issued to finance the costs of construction and improvement of correctional facilities. Beginning with the construction of the Snake River Correctional Facility in Ontario in the early 1990s, DOC has used COPs to finance the major expansion of the prison system. The proceeds from COPs are also used for the construction of local jail capacity related to the SB 1145 population, purchase of property, design costs, siting costs, major improvements or upgrades of existing facilities, and the staff costs associated with the construction and improvement of facilities. For the 2013-15 biennium forward, debt financing will utilize Article XI-Q bonds.

Revenue Sources and Relationships
Other Funds are unused balances in various capital financing accounts that were used to offset General Fund debt service. The Nonlimited Other Funds was used to accommodate refinancing of existing COPs, while the Nonlimited Federal Funds limitation allows for the use of “Build America” bonds where the federal government provides a subsidy for taxable bonds for eligible projects.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget for debt service of $128.8 million total funds is 6.3% less than the 2013- 15 legislatively approved budget. This budget reflects updated debt service requirements from refinancing completed in the 2013-15 biennium. Newly authorized deferred maintenance capital construction bond issuance is scheduled in 2017, such that no additional debt expenditures are incurred in the 2015-17 biennium. The 2015- 17 debt service is 8% of the Department’s total General Fund budget.

Program Description
This budget unit captures maintenance and asset protection expenditures for the agency’s 14 institutions and approximately 4.6 million square feet of building space. Qualified projects must be less than $1 million; if projects exceed $1 million, they are categorized as capital construction.

Revenue Sources and Relationships
This budget unit is supported by General Fund.
Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget of $2.7 million General Fund is 3% higher than the 2013-15 legislatively approved budget. The only adjustment was standard inflation provided in developing the current service level budget.

Program Description
This budget unit includes expenditure authority for acquisition or construction of any structure or group of structures; all land acquisitions; assessments; and improvements or additions to an existing structure, with an aggregate cost of $1 million or more. The expenditure limitation for each project is in effect for six years. These projects are typically debt financed, which is reflected in a preceding budget unit. The agency inventory of deferred maintenance need is in excess of $68 million.

Legislatively Adopted Budget
The 2015-17 legislatively adopted budget includes a $14.2 million authorization for 25 Priority 1 statewide deferred maintenance projects from the $68 million list including: road and erosion stabilization; camera upgrades and replacements; roof replacements for prisons; boiler and HVAC upgrades; kitchen floor replacement; public address and other electronic control upgrades; cooler repairs; and lighting upgrades.

Project work will begin later in the biennium when bonds are sold, such that additional debt expenditures are not incurred until the 2017-19 biennium, when the debt service will be $3.7 million General Fund.