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PROCESS REVIEW

In July 2020 a message was sent to the AICs in our programs, asking for their thoughts on prison labor and Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) programs. We asked for respectful, honest opinions about the benefits of OCE programs and suggestions for improvement. Voices from the Inside is a series of letters and videos from incarcerated men and women in Oregon’s prisons. We shared your letters and videos with the public as a way to allow the people who participate in our programs to have a voice and be heard by Oregonians and beyond.

As your letters came in we started noting the feedback we received. As the list grew, we separated the feedback into three areas: general concerns; ideas, suggestions, and recommendations; and the positive impact of OCE programs. The general concerns (areas of focus) and the positive impacts were highlighted on the poster we sent out in December.

In this introductory issue of the Voices Newsletter we will address a couple of the general concerns and dive into more detail on the following ideas, suggestions, and concerns identified in your letters.

Voices Response Poster thumbnail image with link to poster pdf

General Concerns Addressed:

  • OCE should increase programs and partnerships to create more opportunities

    • Improve education and job training

  • AIC Program Benefits

    • Increase or establish benefits such as vacation days, sick days, 401K

    • Focus efforts on reintegration, provide recommendation letters

  • Understanding PIECP (“PIE”) Deductions and Withholdings

    • Provide information on the withholding of child support, restitution, and automatic savings

Ideas, Suggestions, and Concerns:

  • Federal and State Laws

    • OCE/ODOC to lobby for prison reforms

  • Change the perception that OCE jobs take away from the economy
  • Engage in town hall/workgroup discussions with AICs

GENERAL CONCERNS

Expand Program Opportunities and Partnerships

OCE is always looking for opportunities to expand programs, especially, sustainable programs utilizing technology that are obtainable and maintainable. Our operations are limited to the space made available by DOC to OCE in the institutions. OCE is a self-sustaining organization. We do not receive any general fund (tax) dollars and our revenues are reinvested into our programs (updating machinery, technology, expanding programs). The impacts from COVID have directly affected our revenue. We operated at a loss for the 19–20 fiscal year and this trend has continued into the 20–21 fiscal year.

Prior to COVID, OCE was working to expand the certification/education component of our programs. This included the ability to offer laptops or tablets to study on your own time. With the state budget reductions and impacts to education these conversations were suspended. We look forward to resuming these when operations begin to normalize.

Improve education and job training

Offender Services is working on a Learning Module to provide additional trainings identified through learning paths in our payroll system. This should be in place by the end of the year.

Worker Benefits

Increase or Establish Benefits

OCE updated the Administration to AIC Incentives policy in September of 2020. Time off awards were extended to all programs. AICs who have completed a certification earn an additional day off. We also decreased the eligibility requirements for promotions from 6 months to 90 days. We have made the policy changes and are working to get this implemented in the new timekeeping system. We will communicate updates as progress is made and the changes can begin.

Reintegration, provide recommendation letters

Upon request, OCE Offender Services provides a work history and summary of accomplishments within 30 days of release. We are exploring ways to expand this.

In support of re-entry efforts, OCE is working to develop a collaborative project, a Guide to Personal Success (GPS). GPS will be a series of workbooks designed to help AICs understand the complex system, learn about available resources, serve as a resource for loved ones, and help plan for release back to the communities. We are exploring funding opportunities to bring this project into development. This project is in the planning stage and has been curtailed due to COVID. Look for updates on this project soon.

Voices_Response_P1_topical_art

Understanding PIECP (“PIE”) Deductions and Withholdings

Deductions and withholdings from Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) are under Title 18 U.S.C. 1761(c). The following deductions shall be made from a participating AIC’s gross compensation, which shall not in the aggregate exceed 80% of the inmate’s gross compensation:

  1. State, federal, and local taxes if required to be withheld from the inmate’s compensation by law;
  2. Family support obligations pursuant to state statute or court order, including income withholding orders and garnishments for family support;
  3. Five percent of the inmate’s gross compensation shall be contributed to the Victims Compensation Fund established pursuant to ORS 147.005 through 147.415;
  4. Room and board charges as determined by the Director of the Department of Corrections under OAR 291-081-0070. The amount deducted from an inmate’s monthly gross compensation for room and board charges shall equal the amount of compensation remaining after deductions from gross compensation are made as required under subsections (a) through (c) of this section.
  5. An inmate shall receive 20% of gross compensation for personal use, which shall be deposited into the inmate’s trust account. In no instance shall the inmate retain more than 20% of gross compensation for personal use.

Withholdings, Restitution, and Automatic Savings

All withholdings and savings are guided by a combination of federal and state laws.

Senate Bill 844 is now included in ORS 423.105 and allows 15% of wages to be deducted for court ordered financial obligations (such as restitution, criminal fines and fees, and civil judgments) and re-entry savings. If you do not have any court ordered obligations, DOC will not collect the percentage. The allocation to protected re-entry savings is 5% (up to $500). DOC sent an update regarding the collections in mid-September, to begin October 1, 2020.


IDEAS, SUGGESTIONS, AND CONCERNS

Prison Reforms

OCE continues to engage in discussion with Senator Merkley’s office, OASIS (Oregonians Against Slavery and Involuntary Servitude), and the Coalition for Racial and Economic Justice. OASIS is bringing forward a legislative concept to remove slavery as punishment for a crime from the Oregon Constitution. OCE is also evaluating our Mission, Vision, and Values to identify how we can acknowledge the past, address, the present, and build a brighter future for all. We will provide you with updates on these initiatives in the Federal and State Law updates of this newsletter as we all move forward.

Perception of OCE’s Impact to the Economy

OCE believes in transparency; our website includes a Transparency and Accountability page. We want the community to know the impacts we have on you, our communities, and the state. We have invested in external research to evaluate the impact of OCE programs on Oregon’s economy. On the Transparency and Accountability page there is a button for KPI’s and TRAIN (Key Performance Indicators), where we list our internal performance measures, third party research, audit reports, and our annual reports. Two of the listed reports specifically address OCE’s impact to the economy.

ECONorthwest (2018) published a report, commissioned by OCE, to evaluate the economic impacts of OCE on the state of Oregon. They determined for every million dollars produced by OCE, $690,800 is re-spent along the supply chains in the state, compared to $346,500 for private sector counterparts in the competitive scenario. They determined the potential job displacement is small or offset by purchases in OCE’s supply chain that
support local jobs.

Criminal Justice Commission (2012) completed a benefit-cost analysis for DOC programs. They found Oregon taxpayers (and the reduction of victims) save $5.20 for every dollar invested with OCE.

Engage in Town Hall/Workgroup Discussions

In August, OCE met with a group at OSP to discuss perception of OCE and current societal issues. The group decided a workgroup format would be best to continue engagement and further the conversation. COVID has made continuing these efforts difficult. We are open to engaging in continued conversation and have checked with the institutions to find who holds the meetings and the frequency.

OSP and CCCF are the only institutions to hold town halls pre-COVID. CRCI, MCCF, PRCF, and SRCI hold routine meetings with AIC groups. Both WCCF and OSCI are exploring how to implement this process. OCE will be exploring these options to learn how we can engage with these groups in the institutions where we have programs.

In the next installment of the Voices Newsletter, we will expand on the general concerns/areas of focus you identified in your letters, not addressed in this issue.

  • Cost of Commissary versus PRAS awards
  • Federal and State laws that lead to a slave
    labor environment
  • OCE certifications versus real world standards
  • Better communication between OCE and AICs

The introductory issues of the Voices newsletter will focus on addressing the topics identified in your letters. The sustaining issues of this Voices Newsletter will begin statewide April 1, 2021. This newsletter was developed as direct response to your request for better communication between you and OCE. We are in the process of developing areas of content for the statewide format. The introductory issues will be available in all OCE shops.

Please continue to send your letters. You can give them to your manager or send directly to OCE Admin, Salem, OR, Attn: Voices Project. Your voice is valued and we can help you be heard. Together we can take a stance on giving you a second chance.

About OCE

Mission

The mission of OCE, in partnership with DOC,
is to promote public safety by providing AICs
with work and training opportunities in a self-sustaining organization.

Vision

We are committed to providing transferable work skills and training opportunities for every AIC.


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