ONTARIO — A Snake River Correctional Institution inmate who tested positive for coronavirus died Saturday, Sept. 5, bringing to six the number of state prison inmates who have tested positive for the illness and died.
Snake River Correctional Institution is the state’s largest prison. It is in Ontario, about 13 miles from the Idaho border. About 71% of the prison’s 870 employees live in Idaho, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections.
One other Snake River inmate diagnosed with coronavirus died in August. Three inmates from the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton died and one inmate with coronavirus died at the Oregon State Penitentiary, Salem.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center, a group that has advocated for a broader release of inmates in response to the pandemic, on Tuesday urged Gov. Kate Brown “to release significantly more people to ensure that individuals can physically distance and remain safe.”
Last month, The Argus Observer sought video footage from inside Snake River to see whether corrections officers and staff wear face coverings when in close proximity to inmates.
The Oregon Department of Corrections denied the public records request. The news organization appealed the decision to the Oregon Department of Justice, which denied the petition.
The newspaper said its request for footage followed multiple complaints from inmates, their loved ones and an anonymous person who works at the prison, who said corrections officers were not taking protective measures. In addition, according to the newspaper, corrections officers were seen in uniform at Ontario businesses and were failing to follow social distancing measures even after the prison was put on quarantine due to an outbreak among inmates and staff.
About 71% of the prison’s 870 employees live in Idaho, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections.