Free state inmates?

Oregon’s prison system struggles with addressing the budget crisis.

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Until now the prison system in Oregon has seemed recession-proof, but with state budget cuts looming, either inmates may be released or the system may be reorganized.

In Salem these days, the criminal justice debates under way are philosophical: Should the state simply let large numbers of inmates walk free to balance the budget in the short term or retool the way Oregon manages corrections?

Some legislators and even the head of the Department of Corrections, a former Republican legislator, are quietly pushing for a new approach to criminal justice —one that allows for a range of sanctions for lawbreakers so fewer people end up in prison.

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