Karen James speaks with Tom Stenson, Disability Rights Oregon Deputy Legal Director, about his new report “Four Years Later: Oregon Prison Overhauls Treatment of Inmates with Serious Mental Illness”. Disability Rights Oregon’s previous report “Behind the 11th Door” revealed that adults in custody who lived in the prison mental health unit were subjected to staff violence, isolation, and received inadequate mental healthcare. In January 2016 Oregon Department of Corrections entered into a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to reduce isolation and improve care in the specialized Behavioral Health Unit.
Stenson discusses the improved treatment of adults in custody with mental illness. As of January 2020, Disability Rights Oregon found that, while overuse of solitary confinement remains a concern, ODOC had achieved these key goals:
- BHU residents spent an average of more than 20 hours per week out of their cells,
- Most BHU residents no longer stayed in the BHU for years at time,
o Approximately five to eight residents per quarter were transferred to less restrictive units;
o Of the “long-term” residents (i.e., men who have been in BHU for more than 18 months) approximately four per year were transferred to a less restrictive housing unit;
o Incidents of extreme self-harm and traumatic cell extractions that were once common in the BHU were rare; and
o BHU residents received more effective mental health treatment in a new building that allows them to do so with a level of dignity and confidentiality that was impossible when the agreement was signed in 2016.
Behind the 11th Door Behind-the-Eleventh-Door-Electronic-Version.pdf (squarespace.com)
Disability Rights Oregon Disability Rights Oregon (droregon.org)