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Oregon Suspends Outside Prisoner Work Crews After Prisoner Escape Sparks International Incident

by Mark Wilson

On September 22, 2021 Oregon prison officials suspended outside prisoner work crews “in order to review any potential changes following a walk away earlier this year” according to an internal memo sent by Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) Director Colette Peters and Deputy Director Heidi Steward.

The pause comes in the wake of a high-profile international incident. Fourteen-time felon, Jedaiah Lunn, 36, was incarcerated at the South Fork Forest Camp, a 200-bed minimum-security prison on the Oregon coast operated by ODOC and the Oregon Department of Forestry. While on a work crew at the Gales Creek Campground on April 14, 2021, Lunn walked away, accosted two women who are Japanese nationals, brutally beating them with a large stick, and severely injuring both of them. He then stole their car. Later that day he was caught and arrested. Lunn faces multiple charges, including attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and escape. 

The incident prompted angry Japanese government officials to write Oregon Governor Kate Brown demanding answers. After taking several months to respond, Brown initially stood by the program. The Forest Camp has “largely been successful” Brown wrote to a Japanese diplomat.

Of course, the program’s success was little comfort to the women who were attacked. They recently brought federal suit against ODOC and the Forestry Department. stated, “The suit lists Corrections Director Colette Peters and Forestry Director Peter Daughtery as defendants and alleges negligence by the state. It does not cite the amount in damages the women and their husbands are seeking.”

Although work has been suspended at forest, campground and parksites, Peters and Steward said prisoner fire crews will continue to operate. They referred questions about the decision to the Forestry Department. 

“With public safety as our number one priority, we are taking this time to review measures already implemented, as well as whether there are any additional measures that could supplement these,” said Forestry Department spokesman Jason Cox. He declined, however, to explain the timing of the decision or how long the program will be suspended. He would say only that an administrative review of Lunn’s escape is ongoing. See: Y. et al v. Oregon Department of Corrections et al, USDC, D. Or. Case No. 3:2021cv01042.

PLN will report on any significant developments in the civil and criminal cases. This is a typical example of the ongoing public safety costs of prison slavery where the exploitation of a cheap, expendable work force is considered a paramount governmental objective. 



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Related legal case

Y. et al v. Oregon Department of Corrections et al