Oregon Grand Jury Faults Lenient Pass Policies for Murder
"There seemed to be a permeating sense of leniency," that allowed an Oregon prisoner to brutally murder his ex-girlfriend while on a pass, a grand jury report concluded. "Consequently, we feel that the current attitudes and practices at the CCC pose a significant risk to public safety."
Eric C. Peterson, 24, was sentenced to a jail term and confined in the 215-bed minimum-security Washington County Community Corrections Center (CCC). Prisoners may receive unsupervised passes for work, job searches, treatment, church, child visitation and other meetings. CCC Prisoners who are employed and display good behavior may receive unsupervised social passes for up to 24 hours. CCC does not track prisoners who leave on passes, according to the grand jury.
On August 28, 2014, Peterson was allowed to leave the center on an unsupervised two-hour pass to visit a job search service. When the dust settled, however, it appears that instead of looking for a job, Peterson had sexually assaulted and fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Aimee Zdrantan, 24, who had a restraining order against him. He was arrested two days later in Washington State.
Grand jurors asked CCC director Steve Berger if he would make any changes in response to the murder. He said no, according to the report.
"We were told that there are no plans to change any policies or be proactive regarding any improvement to mitigate risks," the report says. So they made some recommendations of their own.
First, the criteria for determining who is eligible for a pass should be stricter, the grand jury recommended.
"Any resident who is a convicted sex offender, has a restraining order against them, or has been convicted of a violent crime should have their access to passes limited," wrote the grand jury.
Prisoners should be required to undergo a mental evaluation before qualifying for a pass, said the grand jury. "High risk" prisoners should be subjected to more restrictions, and all prisoners should be monitored with an OPS tracking device while on passes, the grand jury found.
"Passes are a privilege, not a right, and should be used in a manner that ensures public safety," the grand jury wrote. They should not be used for social visits.
"It should also be mandatory that all victims be given the option to be notified each time the resident leaves the facility," the grand jury found.
After reading the grand jury's report, Berger asked to meet with them again to address their concerns. The grand jurors "unanimously declined" his offer, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lesowski.
Berger said that following the issuance of the grand jury's report, CCC's pass policy had been carefully reviewed. Twenty-four hour passes were eliminated and CCC is looking at additional ways to track prisoners who are on passes, such as OPS devices and "more intensive programming for sex offenders and other violent offenders."
Source: The Oregonian/OregonLive
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