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In part two of the introductory issue to the Voices Newsletter we are addressing the general concerns/areas of focus identified in your letters. Some of the topics covered in this issue are outside of OCE’s control. We are providing information about these issues and will provide updates in these areas in future newsletters.


Cost of Commissary versus PRAS awards

YOU COMMUNICATED TO OCE there has been an increase in Commissary costs while the PRAS awards remain the same.

DOC COMMISSARY RAISES PRICES only when the vendors raise their prices. DOC Commissary tries to keep prices as stable as possible. DOC operates under an agreement where vendors are only able to raise prices one time per year, except under extenuating circumstances. Most of the vendors are good about not raising prices every year. When they do increase their prices, they tend to raise them on some products, not all products. While DOC sees increases, they also see items decrease in price, which are reflected by lowered prices on the Commissary Sheet.

Presenting a specific overall price increase as a percentage does not tell the complete story. Commissary often rotates or changes product offerings, new products are typically not the same price as the ones for which they were switched out. The ability to generate a specific percentage of increase, is instead shown as a yearly cost increase with a vendor. Commissary tries to maintain a balance between cost and quality, while meeting AIC requests for more expensive items. Brand name items and vendor cost increases drive prices for AICs.

Performance Recognition and Award System is a program developed by DOC and DOJ in response to Measure 17 which amended the Oregon Constitution in 1995. In response to a petition filed in 2014 to amend the PRAS rule, the DOC PRAS Workgroup was established and has been hard at work on this complex issue. Part of that work includes reprogramming DOC’s intricate computer system. As the workgroup’s project comes closer to completion, their team will update you on the work they have done and what you can expect as an outcome. Please continue to be patient, and expect detailed communication from the workgroup sometime later this year.


Federal and State laws leading to slave labor environment

YOU COMMUNICATED TO OCE in your Voices from the Inside letters that existing laws, including the state and federal Constitutions, and Measure 11 (mandatory sentencing) and Measure 17 (requirement to work) passing together, support the Prison-Industrial Complex and slave labor. Here in part two of our response, we address what these are, and will continue to give updates in upcoming newsletters as legislation impacts these issues.

OCE recognizes the national need to address the evolution of prison labor and the impacts it has had on repressed people. OCE is evaluating our Mission, Vision, and Values statements to assess these issues and build toward a new future.

US CONSTITUTION 13th Amendment, Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

2021 OREGON UPDATE — Senate Joint Memorial (SJM) 2 Urges Congress to amend Thirteenth Amendment to United States Constitution to omit clause excepting criminal punishment, thereby ending racist legacy of slavery in nation’s most important document.

OREGON STATE CONSTITUTION Section 34 Slavery or involuntary servitude: There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in the State, otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

2021 UPDATE — Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 10 is currently before the Oregon Legislature and Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances. Refers proposed amendment to people for their approval or rejection at next regular general election.

Current status of national and state level initiatives as reported in the LA Times:

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a measure in December to take similar language out of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His joint resolution died when the 116th Congress ended; he plans to reintroduce it in coming months.

Colorado voters changed their Constitution in 2018 to ban involuntary servitude in that state’s prisons and jails. Utah and Nebraska did the same in 2020. The Abolish Slavery National Network lists 12 states with similar legislation or ballot measures in progress; activists in 12 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico also are organizing around the issue.

(La Ganga, Feb 24, 2021, ‘He wants to kick Jim Crow out of the California Constitution’, LATimes.com)

PRISON-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX — The term Prison-Industrial Complex is the name for a concept, and not a law or statute driving prison labor conditions. While the reasons leading to which types of prisons are involved vary—state and federal versus privately run prisons, and differing from state to state­—the concept is worthy of being addressed.

A term originating in the late 70’s, the Prison-Industrial Complex, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the profit-driven relationship between the government, the private companies that build, manage, supply, and service prisons, and related groups (such as prison industry unions and lobbyists) regarded as the cause of increased incarceration rates especially of poor people and minorities and often for nonviolent crimes.

While Oregon has no private prisons, OCE does operate industry work assignments and training programs that can at times involve private industry. OCE is self-funded and self-sustaining, which means OCE does not receive state general fund monies. In Oregon, and specifically OCE, participation in prison industries is entirely voluntary. While leaving an OCE job can impact desirable housing and earning capabilities, programming in OCE and sustaining a life-style inside are the same as what someone would face in any job outside of prison.

ODOC Male Population M-11 Comparison Pie Chart

ODOC Female Population M-11 Comparison Pie Chart

MEASURE 11 — Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 11 in November 1994 to apply mandatory minimum prison sentences to certain crimes against persons committed on or after April 1, 1995, with no possibility for any reduction in sentence, such as for good behavior. Measure 11 has been modified by legislation several times and modifications to this measure are currently before the Legislature.


MEASURE 17 — In 1994, Oregon voters enacted a constitutional amendment requiring correctional institutions to actively engage [AIC]s in full-time work or on-the-job training. This amendment, known as Ballot Measure 17, took effect April 1, 1995. The Oregon Department of Corrections maintains data on daily work and program assignments for each [AIC]. DOC has a population of approximately 12,400 AICs, 70% or 8,700 are Measure 17 (M17) compliant.


Measure 17 was incorporated into the Oregon Constitution under Section 41:

Work and training for corrections institution inmates; work programs; limitations; duties of corrections director.

(1) Whereas the people of the state of Oregon find and declare that inmates who are confined in corrections institutions should work as hard as the taxpayers who provide for their upkeep; and whereas the people also find and declare that inmates confined within corrections institutions must be fully engaged in productive activity if they are to successfully re-enter society with practical skills and a viable work ethic; now, therefore, the people declare:

(2) All inmates of state corrections institutions shall be actively engaged full-time in work or on-the-job training. The work or on-the-job training programs shall be established and overseen by the corrections director, who shall ensure that such programs are cost-effective and are designed to develop inmate motivation, work capabilities and cooperation. Such programs may include boot camp prison programs. Education may be provided to inmates as part of work or on-the-job training so long as each inmate is engaged at least half-time in hands-on training or work activity.

(8) Compensation, if any, for inmates who engage in prison work programs shall be determined and established by the corrections director. Such compensation shall not be subject to existing public or private sector minimum or prevailing wage laws, except where required to comply with federal law. Inmate compensation from enterprises entering into agreements with the state shall be exempt from unemployment compensation taxes to the extent allowed under federal law. Inmate injury or disease attributable to any inmate work shall be covered by a corrections system inmate injury fund rather than the workers compensation law. Except as otherwise required by federal law to permit transportation in interstate commerce of goods, wares or merchandise manufactured, produced or mined, wholly or in part by inmates or except as otherwise required by state law, any compensation earned through prison work programs shall only be used for the following purposes:

(a) Reimbursement for all or a portion of the costs of the inmate’s rehabilitation, housing, health care, and living costs;

(b) Restitution or compensation to the victims of the particular inmate’s crime;

(c) Restitution or compensation to the victims of crime generally through a fund designed for that purpose;

(d) Financial support for immediate family of the inmate outside the corrections institution; and

(e) Payment of fines, court costs, and applicable taxes

Measure 17 requires AICs be actively engaged in a combination of education, work programs, and on-the-job training. It establishes the guidelines for when federal laws (Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Programs) can be applied to OCE work programs. The Performance Recognition and Award System (PRAS) is a direct result of Measure 17. Both DOC and OCE provide financial awards for AICs according to voter-based guidelines; it is our policy to make monetary awards available to AICs and offer other incentives to recognize and encourage good institutional conduct given the restrictions of the constitution.


OCE certifications versus real world standards

Value and purpose of OCE certifications

Incarceration provides an opportunity to develop and enhance skills to prevent recidivism. Certifications, program participation, and summary sheets assist with building a resume and completing job applications once released.

OCE programs prepare, train, and assist AICs in developing both technical and soft skills necessary for successful community re-entry. Training curriculum consists of industry related topics and workplace essentials, coupled with on-the-job training in manufacturing products and providing services.

An AIC will complete self-study curriculum within a designated six-to-twelve-month time frame. Certificate participation includes satisfactory completion of the soft skills curriculum. It is essential for work skill participants to successfully complete curriculum requirements and receive a favorable supervisor evaluation to achieve a certificate in Business or Industrial Technology.

OCE Certification(s) - Location

  • Autodesk Inventor - OSP
  • Embroidery - EOCI
  • Sewing - EOCI, SRCI
  • Graphic Design (Adobe) - OSCI
  • Commercial Laundry - DRCM, EOCI, OSP, SRCI, TRCI
  • Commercial Laundry Sort - MCCF, TRCI
  • Mail Fulfillment - OSCI
  • Metal Fabrication and Welding - MCCF, OSP
  • Commercial Printing - OSCI
  • Sign Fabrication - SRCM
  • Textiles (Embroidery/Sewing) - CCCF
  • Upholstery - TRCI
  • Wood Fabrication - OSP, TRCI

Upon completion OCE will provide participants who successfully complete the program a printed certificate of either Completion (12-month program) or Participation (6-month program). In addition, a certification program summary sheet is provided detailing the following:

  • Specialization Area
  • Work/Equipment Experience
  • Supervisors Evaluation
  • Work Verification & Contact Information

Real world standards: Partnerships to create more opportunities

GRAPHIC DESIGN — OCE aims to improve programs, by looking for opportunities to develop careers after release. Our goal is to provide offerings with training relevant to the modern job market that will pay a livable wage, offering a chance to grow and meet with success. The OCE Graphic Design program is a great example of this. Over the last few years, the Graphic Design Team (GDT) at OSCI has shown tremendous growth. New hires begin by completing an OCE certification program on Adobe software. Completion of this program is just the starting point. GDT participants apply their skills and creativity daily by designing marketing materials from catalogs and brochures specific to OCE’s needs to logos, national magazine covers, and graphics for social media. While that set of skills alone is enough to create an opportunity for post-release employment, OCE has now pushed to the next level of training. The GDT is now aligned with one of the top-ten Adobe Certified Instructors in the world, who regularly instructs designers all over the globe. OCE is in the process of implementing this 365-day training course giving GDT designers a real-world certificate that will make an impact in an interview. The materials created by each OCE AIC graphic designer will be reviewed by the industry professional and his team, and they will in turn provide direct feedback and encouragement useful for improving their skillset. OCE has ideas for expanding the GDT beyond this, creating significant opportunities for graphic designers. Watch for updates right here in the Voices Newsletters to come!


Better communication between OCE and AICs

YOU ASKED FOR A CONSISTENT FORMAT for receiving regular updates and operational change information. This and the previous installation were the introductory pieces to what is going to become Voices, the new OCE quarterly newsletter. This newsletter will be distributed across all institutions and on the OCE website. Voices Newsletter Logo

Voices newsletter is intended to begin distribution in April 2021. This edition will include editorials, testimonials, legislative updates, business unit updates, upcoming new training certifications, and latest on the Voices from the Inside project. This newsletter was developed as direct response to your request for better communication between you and OCE. Please send an AIC communication with any suggestions/requests for future topics in Voices to:

OCE Admin
Attn: People, Programs, and Services
PO Box 12849
Salem, OR 97309

Continue to share your voice on prison labor and OCE programs. Your voice has value and we can help you be heard. Together we can take a stance on giving you a second chance. Submit letters to your manager or send them directly to:

OCE Admin
Attn: Voices Project
PO Box 12849
Salem, OR 97309


About OCE


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.


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


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