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Oregon Governor Kate Brown Offers Early Release to Prisoners Because of COVID, But Some Prisoners Opt to Remain Behind Bars

Due to the alarming rise of the coronavirus spreading within Oregon’s prisons, Gov. Kate Brown offered early release to 66 inmates who are at a greater risk of contracting the deadly virus. This was done in hopes to mitigate public safety risks as a result of the virus raging throughout Oregon’s prison system. However, of the dozens of inmates given this opportunity, some opted out of their freedom and instead decided to remain behind bars.

Originally, 74 inmates had been given the opportunity to regain their freedom.

Yet, 10 of those incarcerated turned down the commutation.

Jeffrey Lawson, 38, chose to stay in prison due to his severe addiction to methamphetamine. Upon early release, Lawson would not have the same accessibility to his six-month intensive drug treatment program. This program is available to him within the prison, however not so much outside of it. Therefore, Lawson made the crucial and risky decision to remain incarcerated in hopes to keep himself clean and to provide a better future for himself.

Another inmate who refused the commutation was Anna Osborne, 43. Osborne struggled through years of heavy drug addiction, while also battling multiple previous arrests regarding property and drug related crimes. Due to the difficulty of finding proper treatment outside of prison walls, Osborne found it more beneficial to remain in custody. The decisions of both Lawson and Osborne shocked Oregon of Department and Corrections officials.

To the inmates who opted to stay behind bars, ensuring that they get the proper help they need for their drug addictions proved to be more powerful of a drive than to flee from a deadly virus. This sends a powerful message that those in need of resources outside of prisons are not accessing the help they need to get better. Their decision to risk their health by remaining in prison in the hope of keeping their addiction under control is dramatic and tragic proof that more resources need to be provided to help people overcome their drug addictions.

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