March 19, 2021
From Perilous (USA)
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by Chris May and Emily Green, Street Roots

This article was originally published in Street Roots.

Chronicled in this special report are the 42 prisoners who, as of press time, had died of COVID-19 while serving time in Oregon state prisons. All were men. Some, serving long sentences, would have died in prison whether they contracted the virus or not. But many would have been released with years of life left to live; 16 were to be released between 2020 and 2023.

Their ages range from 32 to 89, and their deaths occurred within institutions funded by taxpayer dollars, under the oversight of our elected leaders.

The Oregon Department of Corrections’ handling of the pandemic has drawn ire from prisoners, their families and justice reform advocates alike.

As of March 5, there had been 3,549 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the state’s 12,586 prisoners, with the virus reaching all but one of the state’s 15 correctional facilities.

As cases escalated among state prisons, Gov. Kate Brown granted early releases in piecemeal fashion.

Oregon DOC estimated in April that it would need to release 5,800 people to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Two months later, Brown issued the first round of commuted sentences, releasing 57 prisoners. In July, legislators presented Brown with a plan to release 2,000 prisoners safely, but she declined. In September, she released 66 more.

Meanwhile, reports of prison staffers and occupants refusing to wear masks while making little effort to protect vulnerable prisoners have been reported by various media outlets around the state, and at least two class-action lawsuits have been filed against the Oregon DOC. One successfully argued for a judicial order to immediately provide vaccines to all prisoners in state custody. Since the Feb. 3 ruling, 9,156 prisoners have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,256 have received their second dose, said Oregon DOC spokesperson Jennifer Black.

Another lawsuit filed against the department includes allegations from more than 90 prisoners who describe how the virus spread like wildfire through prison facilities, and eventually their bodies; five prisoners describe learning of and living with the deaths of those they knew.

When asked to provide information about deceased prisoners’ next of kin, Oregon DOC refused. Doing so, the agency said, would “interfere with the rehabilitation of a person in custody of the department or substantially prejudice or prevent the carrying out of the functions of the department.”

The department also declined to contact any next of kin on behalf of Street Roots after being provided with a short list of prisoners we were interested in profiling for this package.

Without any leads from the department, profiling prisoners was a challenge. Many had been incarcerated for years with few connections or paper trails outside prison walls.

Some of the families Street Roots contacted were reluctant to have their names published, but many expressed a desire to pay tribute to their lost loved ones. Each family had different relationships and experiences with the criminal justice system and news media, but they all shared a similar belief: These deaths could have been avoided.

About half of the deceased were serving time for sex offenses, and 10 were serving time for murder. Due to the length of sentences associated with those crimes, many of these prisoners were older, some of their crimes stemming from events a half-century ago.

But others were serving shorter sentences for crimes such as identity theft, parole violations, drug possession and robbery.

We decided against listing the deceased’s convictions — which are easily accessible public records — alongside their names. This is not because Street Roots is attempting to minimize the severity of their crimes, which are serious. It is because our intention in naming these prisoners is to illuminate the humanity that exists behind the anonymous COVID-19 death reports released by the state.

This listing serves as the closest thing to an obituary or memorial the vast majority of deceased named in these pages will be bestowed, and to label them with their crimes and little else would only serve to dehumanize them further and minimize their deaths.

Naming the deceased

Oregon Department of Corrections has not released the names of prisoners who died from COVID-19, citing health care privacy laws. Street Roots determined who they were by cross-referencing news releases from the department about COVID-19 deaths and other reports with lists of prisoner deaths obtained through public records requests. Records we received from the department were automated and contained numerous errors, including some inaccurate death dates and inaccurate release dates. We worked with the department to correct these errors to ensure the accuracy of this report.

Some Indigenous communities practice a year of no photos following a person’s death. Street Roots took steps to reach family of known Indigenous people in this report regarding the publication of their loved one’s photograph.

The prisoners who died from COVID-19

The deceased are listed in the order of their death.

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Greg Chavez, 53

Died May 20, 2020

Oregon State Penitentiary

Release date: Life, no parole date set

2%20Louis%20Jackson.jpg?itok=vg8cIZAl

Louis Jackson, 63

Died Aug. 12, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: April 8, 2026

3%20Dennis%20Howes.jpg?itok=rPn3iKhX

Dennis Howes, 66

Died Aug. 20, 2020

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: June 10, 2025

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Warren Hill, 73

Died Aug. 26, 2020

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Life, no parole date set

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David Windham, 54

Died Aug. 26, 2020

Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution

Release date: May 5, 2045

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Barry Larsen, 64

Died Sept. 6, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: Dec. 16, 2021 (tentative parole)

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Lavern Carlton, 82

Died Sept. 22, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: May 14, 2023

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Richard Torres, 69

Died Sept. 25, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: March 15, 2030

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Brian McCarvill, 68

Died Sept. 27, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: July 6, 2026

PROFILE: Brian McCarvill was an anarchist who fought for prison abolition
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James Kempf, 81

Died Oct. 3, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: April 19, 2027

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Timothy McElroy, 62

Died Oct. 4, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: Aug. 20, 2035

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Donald Bennett, 71

Died Oct. 5, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: Feb. 14, 2023

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Gilberto Pedroso, 77

Died Oct. 6, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: Life, no parole date set

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Wayne Denson, 74

Died Oct. 13, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: Nov. 12, 2022

Wayne Denson’s family didn’t know he had been transferred to a hospital until they got a call from a nurse in Boise who told them Denson was on a ventilator and wouldn’t live much longer.
“I know he wanted to live,” said Denson’s brother, who wished to remain anonymous. “He had rheumatoid arthritis and some other conditions, but the prison’s policy is what killed him. The way they’re handling things, I think it’s criminal.”
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Michael Abeln, 57

Died Oct. 17, 2020

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: Dec. 12, 2023

A.%20Gregory%20Burns.jpg?itok=kbnntc1u

Gregory Burns, 53

Died Oct. 19, 2020

Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution

Release date: Feb. 23, 2023

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Nicholas Zangari, 51

Died Nov. 23, 2020

Oregon State Correctional Institution

Release date: Oct. 18, 2021

B.%20James%20Moore.jpg?itok=_vHcCZBa

James Moore, 81

Died Nov. 30, 2020

Oregon State Correctional Institution

Release date:  July 4, 2024

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Joseph Jones, 76

Died Dec. 10, 2020

Deer Ridge Correctional Institution

Release date: Dec. 13, 2020

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Roger McPherson, 59

Died Dec. 18, 2020

Deer Ridge Correctional Institution

Release date: June 8, 2022

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Andrew Boyer, 59

Died Dec. 27, 2020

Oregon State Penitentiary

Release date: Aug. 31, 2048

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Bernardino Garcia, 32  

Died Dec. 30, 2020

Oregon State Penitentiary

Release date: Nov. 7, 2022

PROFILE: Bernardino Garcia was committed to preserving his Indigenous culture
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Paul Villines, 56

Died Jan. 2, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Nov. 15, 2030

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Peter Bara, 47

Died Jan. 3, 2021

Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

Release date: July 17, 2021

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Antonio Arevalo, 89

Died Jan. 6, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Jan. 11, 2060

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John Fuller, 71

Died Jan. 7, 2021

Oregon State Penitentiary

Release date: Life, no parole date set

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Cecil Norton, 72

Died Jan. 10, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Life, no parole date set

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Rennie Dearborn, 69

Died Jan. 14, 2021

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: March 20, 2021

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Austin Coleman, 57

Died Jan. 16, 2021

Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

Release date: Oct. 6, 2021

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Douglas Turnbow, 76

Died Jan. 16, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Oct. 2, 2081

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Lloyd Ward, 76

Died Jan. 16, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Jan. 2, 2023

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Carlyle Sands, 59

Died Jan. 17, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: July 13, 2025

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John Freeman, 64

Died Jan. 18, 2021

Snake River Correctional Institution

Release date: April 8, 2042

33%20James%20Hargrave.jpg?itok=1IfG5LfO

James Hargrave, 70

Died Jan. 20, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Life, no parole date set

PROFILE: James Hargrave had a big heart
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Jessie Ballew, 71

Died Jan. 21, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Dec. 14, 2030

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Donald Easley, 71

Died Jan. 21, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Life, no parole date set

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Russell Lee, 57

Died Jan. 21, 2021

Oregon State Penitentiary

Release date: June 1, 2021

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Juan Tristan, 58

Died Jan. 22, 2021

Oregon State Penitentiary

Release date: Aug. 14, 2025

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James Owens, 78

Died Jan. 24, 2021

Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

Release date: July 19, 2026

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Donald Hilburn, 58

Died Jan. 26, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Aug. 24, 2029

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Phyll Mendacino, 65  

Died Jan. 26, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Sept. 2, 2023 (tentative parole)

PROFILE: Phyll Mendacino advocated for Indigenous rights behind bars
41%20William%20Vance.jpg?itok=61_rj7a3

William Vance, 72

Died Jan. 29, 2021

Two Rivers Correctional Institution

Release date: Life, no parole date set


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Source: Perilouschronicle.com