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Jail Standards

Best practices and guidelines for the operation of jails in the State of Oregon.

Oregon jails are required to comply with fourteen statutory jail standards that are set out in ORS 169.076.  In 1998, the Directors of the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association (OSSA) recognized that these statutory standards were not sufficient to ensure that all jails were using best practices to maintain safe facilities and provide humane treatment of inmates in County Jails.  OSSA worked to create the “OSSA Jail Standards – Best practices and guidelines for the operation of jails in the State of Oregon”.  The OSSA Standards are a set of completely voluntary best practices that were designed to raise the bar for how Oregon jails are operated, and create consistency in the operation of all County jails.  Since 1999, the OSSA Jail Standards have been continuously updated to keep up with the latest issues in corrections in order to reduce agency liability and ensure that inmates are being treated appropriately.  

Every Oregon Sheriff has voluntarily agreed to use the OSSA Jail Standards and each County jail is inspected on a bi-annual basis to ensure they are using best practices.  That inspection also includes a review of all 14 statutory standards.  At this time, there are over 300 individual requirements that are inspected for compliance, and the standards are written by a licensed Oregon attorney who is a former corrections officer and who specializes in law enforcement and corrections issues.

These Standards have been maintained as confidential since they were created.  For the past few years, there has been increased interest in these standards, since they are used to inspect all County jails in Oregon. In the interests of transparency, the Directors of the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association have decided to release these standards for public viewing on the OSSA website.  The standards remain copyrighted, and may not be copied or reproduced without written permission of OSSA.

There are some standards that are clearly not applicable to specific jails.  A jail may be given an exception to a standard if the standard doesn’t apply.  A jail may also request a variance to a specific standard.  The procedures for an exception or a variance are spelled out at the end of the Standards document.  The main reason that a jail would request an exception or a variance would be a lack of resources.  For example a jail that was built without an outdoor exercise facility, and does not have sufficient resources to build such a facility may be given an exception to the standard requiring an outdoor exercise facility. 

Oregon Sheriffs’ believe that these Standards are unique in the nation, and we are proud of the strides that Oregon jails have made since their implementation in 1999.  Many other states have jail accreditation standards, but we are not aware of any that are this comprehensive, and that are utilized by every County jail in the State.

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