Ore. governor commutes sentences of 41 inmates who helped battle historic wildfires

“The governor recognizes that these adults in custody served our state in a time of crisis," said a spokeswoman for Gov. Brown

By Noelle Crombie
SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown has commuted the sentences of 41 prisoners who helped fight wildfires that burned across the state last year, the Oregon Department of Corrections confirmed Wednesday.

Of those she identified for commutation, 23, including eight women, are expected to be released on July 22 provided they have housing in place.

Brown shaved 12 months off the sentences for the remaining 18 prisoners, including three women.

Three are serving mandatory minimum sentences under Oregon’s Measure 11, according to the Department of Corrections.

Brown said in March she would consider commuting the sentences of those who took part in firefighting efforts last summer. The group she commuted was pulled from a potential pool of 164 prisoners, according to the Department of Corrections.

To be eligible for consideration, candidates must have worked the 2020 wildfire season. They had to have good conduct for the past 12 months and a housing plan upon release. The corrections agency said they assessed candidates based on their “safety, security, or compliance risk to the community.”

The wildfires torched more than 4,000 residences and burned more than 1 million acres across the state.

Brown’s spokeswoman Liz Merah said many incarcerated people “bravely fought these wildfires, alongside civilian firefighters, and helped prevent further destruction and loss of life across the state.”

“The governor recognizes that these adults in custody served our state in a time of crisis, and she believes they should be rewarded and acknowledged for their contribution to this historic firefighting response,” Merah said.

The latest round of commutations is different from the other early releases the governor has approved due to COVID-19. Since early last year, Brown has approved early release for inmates who meet certain criteria as part of her response to the pandemic and its spread the state’s prisons.

Oregon’s prison population stands at 12,069, the lowest since 2003.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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