- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - The safety of sex offenders at two Eastern Oregon prisons has been put in the spotlight this month after a lawsuit and a series of unexpected deaths.

Early February marked the third unexpected death of an inmate convicted of sex crimes in as many months at Two Rivers Correctional Institution, Umatilla.

At the same time, an inmate at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, Pendleton, is awaiting a judge’s decision after suing the prison for separation of sex offenders from the rest of the population to protect them from other inmates.

David George Chandler, 41, currently serving time at EOCI after being convicted on rape and sodomy charges in Clackamas County, claims the prison is violating his eighth amendment rights to protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

Court documents detail Chandler’s complaints, including a claim that an inmate once grabbed him by the throat, called him “rape-o” and slapped him.

Chandler told the court he and other inmates incarcerated for sex crimes were required to pay “rent” in order to avoid being assaulted and were often put in danger in the dining hall when crowded conditions forced them into contact with gang members who had threatened them.

Chandler has been at the prison since early 2005 and is currently housed in the mental health unit. The two-day trial took place inside the prison on Feb. 6-7, presided over by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon. The judge has not yet made a ruling.

Meanwhile at Two Rivers Correctional Institution, the Oregon Department of Corrections announced that Damion Banks, 31, died on Feb. 5. No further details were released about the circumstances surrounding his death.

Banks had been at TRCI for less than a year on four counts of rape, two counts of sex abuse and one count of child sex in Washington and Clackamas counties. He had been incarcerated since June 2010 and his earliest release date was March 2015.

Just 10 days before Banks’ death the Department of Corrections announced the unexpected death of inmate Shane Michael Morris, 39. Morris was found unconscious in his cell and staff rendered CPR before he was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead. Morris had been in TRCI since Oct. 2009 and incarcerated since July 2005 on three counts of sexual abuse and one count of sodomy in Umatilla County. His earliest release date was February 2019.

And in early December the department announced the death of inmate Larry Hurst, 67, on the evening of Nov. 30.

Hurst was alone in his cell when he was found unconscious and a preliminary look at the evidence did not indicate foul play. Hurst had been at TRCI since Sept. 2011 and incarcerated since April 2010 for delivery of marijuana to a minor and one count of attempted sodomy. He was eligible for release as early as January 2015.

As standard procedure in the case of unexpected death of an inmate, the Oregon State Police Criminal Investigation Division is investigating all three deaths. TRCI public information officer Sherry Iles said the prison could not comment on whether the deaths were related or on any other aspect of the ongoing investigations.

According to Department of Corrections data, on Feb. 1 TRCI had 792 sex offenders in its all-male population of 1,741 inmates, totaling 45 percent of the population. Some of those inmates are currently serving time for non-sexual crimes but 185 are incarcerated for rape, 214 for sodomy and 291 for sex abuse.

On Feb. 1 EOCI had 782 sex offenders in its all-male population of 1,708 for a total of 46 percent. Of those inmates, 193 are currently serving time for rape, 196 for sodomy and 307 for sex abuse.

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Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.info


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