Update on COVID-19 Outbreak at Inverness Jail

February 17, 2021

Public Health confirmed today that 192 adults in custody at Inverness Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Another 29 staff members, or members of their households, have also tested positive.

Those with a positive test are housed together and being monitored closely for signs of severe illness and have 24/7 access to medical care. Corrections Health reports that the small number of people who have developed symptoms are mostly reporting mild symptoms. One person went to the hospital and has since returned to the facility. There have been no deaths among those in custody.

Those who test negative, but may have been exposed to someone with a positive test, are also housed together on quarantine and undergo frequent rapid testing.

At least 240 people who are in custody have also received a COVID-19 vaccine, with a team returning to the facility to offer additional vaccine next week.

Public Health is also working with Corrections Health, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon Health Authority on strategies to further limit the spread of COVID in the facility. The large, open dorms at Inverness are considered higher risk congregate settings as communal sleeping, showers and dining can facilitate spread of disease. The population has a high turnover, with sporadic timing of arrivals and departures.

Throughout the year-long pandemic, the criminal justice system has worked intentionally to reduce the population in the jail through policy and practice, reducing the census by about 30 percent to increase physical distancing. Everyone coming into Inverness also enters a 14 day quarantine before they are moved into general housing.

However, in recognition of the urgent need to create space inside correctional facilities due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Multnomah County’s Presiding Judge has issued additional release authority to pretrial release officers for defendants who come into custody. This does not affect pretrial release processes for defendants charged with person-to-person crimes. It may however impact people charged with Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, Possession of a Motor Vehicle as well as Felon in Possession of a Firearm. Pretrial release officers will still conduct assessments on those individuals to determine eligibility for release. 

The Department of Community Justice is continually assessing individuals in custody for early release, when appropriate. Probation officers are also working to reduce the jail population by addressing violations out of custody — in partnership with criminal justice and community partners.

DCJ staff are working with corrections staff, health, community providers and the courts to help connect defendants to community resources upon release, whenever possible. People involved in the justice system may also be referred to the Department of Community Justice’s Pretrial Services Unit upon release.  

The Presiding Judge’s Order is in effect until March 15. The text is as follows: 

This order incorporates findings made in Presiding Judge Orders issued during the COVID-19 Pandemic, including but not limited to Orders 2001-30000; 2001-00000; and 2101-30000. The Court further incorporates the findings and orders made in Presiding Judge Order Delegating the Release Authority for Pretrial Release Officers, signed in 2015.

The State of Oregon remains subject to the Governor's Declaration of Emergency pursuant to Executive Order 20-67 and extensions. Multnomah County remains subject to the County Commission's Declaration of Emergency pursuant to Executive Rule 388 and extensions. On Monday, March 16, 2020, Chief Justice Martha Walters issued CJO 20-006, which includes a direction that Courts must explore alternatives to current arrest and detention policies including use of citation-in-lieu of arrest where appropriate to keep jail population at a minimum.

The Multnomah County Inverness Jail is currently experiencing a severe outbreak of people infected with the COVID-19 virus. As of this date, there are nine dorms within the jail that are in quarantine status. Urgent action is needed to prevent additional spread of the virus to other incarcerated individuals and staff of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.

Pursuant to the above findings and authority, I order as follows:

For all misdemeanors, excluding ones for which Oregon Statutes set forth a requirement for mandatory arrests, officers authorized to conduct arrests under ORS 133.220 may issue a citation in lieu of arrest as authorized by ORS 133.055 to 133.076.

For all Class C felony crimes that are "property" offenses, excluding charges of Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle, and Felon in Possession of a Firearm, officers authorized to conduct arrests under ORS 133.220 may issue a citation in lieu of arrest as authorized by ORS 133.055 to 133.076.

The above-described process does not apply to any person-to-person Class A misdemeanor as defined by OAR 213-003-0001(15), or any Class C person felonies or attempts to commit a Class C person felony as defined by OAR 213-003-0001(14).

For all persons charged with Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, Possession of a Motor Vehicle and Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Release Assistance Officers are authorized to release any defendant detained pursuant to law in Multnomah County where the release assistance officer determines that release is warranted and within existing guidelines established for release, notwithstanding the exceptions listed in the Presiding Judge Order Delegating Release Authority for Pretrial Release Officers.

This order takes effect immediately and shall remain in effect until March 15, 2021, unless this order is lifted or extended by further order of the court.