Lake County officials rally to save prison from Oregon budget cuts

The Warner Creek Correctional Facility is on the chopping block due to a massive anticipated budget shortfall caused by coronavirus.

Posted: Jul 24, 2020 3:05 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2020 3:38 PM

LAKEVIEW, Ore. — Leaders in Lake County have formed a coalition aimed at saving a state prison in Lakeview from impending closure amid coming budget cuts in the Oregon legislature.

Facing a massive budget shortfall due to coronavirus-related economic impacts, legislators have been drafting up plans on where to make cuts over the next several years. Both the Warner Creek Correctional Facility in Lakeview and the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in North Bend would eventually be closed under the initial budget proposals.

Warner Creek is a minimum security prison opened in 2005 and designed to hold just over 400 inmates. It employs more than 100 people in rural Lake County, and represents an economic boon to the Lakeview area measured in millions of dollars per year.

On Thursday, Lake County Commissioners announced the advent of the "Warner Creek Coalition" — a group with representatives from the County, the town of Lakeview, Lake Health District, the local Chamber of Commerce, Lake County School District, and Warner Creek staff.

"The coalition was established to provide a rural voice for the public welfare and economic well-being of the county in support of keeping the Warner Creek Correctional facility open and operational," the Coalition said in a statement. "The coalition will call for Governor Kate Brown to keep Warner Creek Correctional Facility open for the remainder of the current biennium and remain on the budget for the 2021-2023 biennium."

The initial Oregon budget proposal, drafted by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, would immediately close Shutter Creek in North Bend. Warner Creek, on the other hand, would remain "open for the remainder of the current biennium," but would likely close during the 2021-23 biennium.

The Warner Creek Coalition has created a Facebook page to organize support for keeping the prison open and deliver updates about the still-evolving budget cuts.

"These next few months are critical for every person to be actively involved to create the most influence on the future legislative budget decisions that will adversely affect our local economy," the Coalition said.

The group says that it has requested a meeting with Governor Brown in an effort to stop the prison closure.

"We are very aware that the State of Oregon is facing a budget crisis — however, we do not believe that placing Lakeview's already fragile economy in a tailspin is good for this town, county or the state," former County commissioner Jane O'Keefe wrote in a post.

Much of the proposed changes to Oregon's budget so far consist of shuffling funds, scaling back planned expansions of state programs, and freezing employment of new staff at various agencies. The closure of Shutter Creek and Warner Creek represent some of the biggest outright cuts to existing facilities or programs.

Beyond people that Warner Creek employs directly, the Coalition says that dozens of jobs are indirectly associated with the prison. At least 60 homes are rented or owned in Lake County by prison employees, and almost 100 children of employees go to school in either Lakeview or Paisley.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 195179

Reported Deaths: 2585
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38618593
Washington25757233
Marion22140307
Clackamas17633214
Lane13089149
Jackson10938139
Deschutes912274
Umatilla823684
Linn498168
Klamath448664
Yamhill448376
Polk377953
Malheur352763
Josephine336471
Douglas329171
Benton311720
Jefferson221537
Coos207735
Columbia175729
Union145123
Lincoln138521
Wasco138128
Hood River119631
Crook113122
Morrow111116
Clatsop9948
Baker95914
Tillamook6523
Curry64610
Grant5226
Lake4557
Harney3488
Wallowa1855
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
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California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3768087

Reported Deaths: 62656
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123727324101
Riverside2997934594
San Bernardino2971654721
San Diego2789903737
Orange2711945030
Santa Clara1190062096
Kern1092721376
Sacramento1049581691
Fresno1019171688
Alameda880271667
Ventura810331016
San Joaquin733101394
Contra Costa68942806
Stanislaus622491061
Tulare49830840
Monterey43662383
San Mateo42041570
San Francisco36771545
Santa Barbara34378456
Solano32974252
Merced31919461
Sonoma30057321
Imperial28485728
Kings23013246
Placer22679292
San Luis Obispo21331260
Madera16474242
Santa Cruz16264207
Marin14072227
Yolo13922210
Shasta12175226
Butte12076192
El Dorado10193113
Napa988382
Sutter9441113
Yuba628547
San Benito606863
Lassen570624
Tehama559063
Nevada475175
Tuolumne413967
Mendocino410849
Humboldt407242
Amador366547
Lake348343
Glenn239825
Siskiyou225525
Colusa223616
Calaveras213654
Inyo142838
Del Norte13988
Mono12844
Plumas7186
Modoc5014
Mariposa4507
Trinity4025
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