DRO testifies about isolation of prisoners with mental illness

DRO staff testified to the Senate Committee on Human Services and Early Childhood about SB739, which would limit isolation and increase therapeutic activity for prisoners who have several mental illness.

You can watch our testimony here:

More coverage from the Oregonian:

Prisoners in the Oregon State Penitentiary unit reserved for inmates with the most severe mental illnesses spend months, sometimes years in small cells with no natural light or outdoor access and rarely get to speak with others, according to an investigation by Disability Rights Oregon.

Most are in their cells for 23 hours a day, and few regularly shower or have a chance for recreation even though both are required under state Department of Corrections policies, the federally-funded advocacy group found.

The bill, requested by Disability Rights Oregon and sponsored by state Sen. Chip Shields, D-Portland, would require the state to ensure inmates in the state prison’s Behavioral Health Unit spend seven hours a day out of their cells. The bill also would prohibit solitary confinement, and require a “cooling-off” period before correction officers could use force against someone with a serious mental illness.

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