Crimes call for prisons

Whatever happened to the prison that was proposed for the Medford area? Is the prison still coming or has that plan been dropped?

— James W., Medford

James, they keep committing crimes and we keep locking them up, which means more prisons are in our future. Among those prisons is one planned for an area off Foothill Road, northeast of Medford, referred to as Stimpson Gulch.

Criminal justice planners say it's not a matter of if the Medford prison will be built, but when. Voters could have a big say in that this fall when they consider two get-tough-on-crime proposals. One is a referral from the state Legislature, the other an initiative sponsored by former state Republican Party chairman and legislator Kevin Mannix.

While no one can predict with precision how many more people would be locked up under the proposals, the state has looked back and determined that the Legislature's plan would have added 1,900 inmates if it had been passed in 2006, while Mannix's plan would have added 4,900. The two measures focus primarily on property and drug crimes.

If both measures pass, whichever of the two gets the most votes is the one that will go into effect. They both will speed up the likelihood of the Medford prison being built, but the Mannix proposal would almost certainly put that plan into action much sooner.

Medford was selected in 1997 for both a minimum- and medium-security prison, with a 400-bed minimum-security lockdown expected to be built first. At the time, prison populations were increasing rapidly and the expectation was that the Medford facility would be built within a few years. But that growth slowed and the construction date has been put off indefinitely.

The site is already approved for the prison and state corrections officials have said it could eventually hold as many as 4,000 inmates. When that will begin to happen likely will be clearer after the November vote.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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