It was a long but worthwhile
and eventful day recently when Council 75 Public Safety lobbyist Mary Botkin
brought three Oregon legislators and a Lake County commissioner to tour Warner
Creek Correctional Facility (WCCF) in Lakeview.
Opened in 2005, it's fair to
say WCCF is a bit off the beaten track. It's a 400-bed, minimum-security
institution. Local 3371 represents about 50 correctional officers at the
facility, and there are about 40 members of the statewide Local 2376 Security
Plus unit. Council 75 Staff Representative Rodney McCambridge services the
locals out of the union's Grants Pass field office.
Taking the tour with Botkin
and McCambridge were state Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls), his wife,
state Rep.-elect Gail Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) and Rep. Wally Hicks (R-Grants
Pass), along with Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner. The contingent spent a
full five hours at the institution, taking an extended tour, talking with
members at their worksites and answering questions later in an informal meet-and-greet
"It was a very long day, but
it was actually really fun," said Brenda Johnson, the Local 2376 Chapter
President at WCCF. "I got to see Mary Botkin at work, and she brought some friends
— Sen. Whitsett, Rep.-elect Whitsett, Rep. Hicks and Commissioner Conner.
I believe it was very interesting and informative for all involved."
Botkin said the tour
accomplished its goals related to the legislators.
"We had an excellent
walkabout," she said. "We weren't pushed for time, and I have to say the two
Whitsetts and Rep. Hicks were genuinely eager to hear questions and
observations from our frontline workers. It's one thing for me to constantly
harangue them about the double- and triple-bunking situations, but it's far
better for them to see it firsthand with their own eyes. Plus our members are
always happy to see us show up, so it was a good trip."
In one of the housing units,
Security staff showed legislators the relatively new "bandstand" officer's
post, a small platform that allows COs better line-of-sight over the inmates.
McCambridge sad the lawmakers were taken aback to hear that previously,
officers had to rely on either a small 3-inch riser or a metal step stool to over
see their charges.
"I think the elected
officials all had their eyes opened a bit to the day-to-day operations of this
particular correctional institution," says McCambridge. "They came in with the
perception that our staff, both Security and Security Plus, are at arms length
from the inmates and that they have clear lines of sight at all times. Those
and other inadvertent misconceptions were all pretty much shattered."
McCambridge adds that DOC
agency funding in general, ways to find dedicated DOC funding in particular and
state employee health care coverage (HEM) were the chief topics of discussion
during the question-and-answer session with lawmakers. He also thanked Johnson
for her role in helping set up and organize the tour.