Columbia River officially opened on September 19, 1990. The Institution was designed as a co-ed, minimum custody, Institution for adult felons in the State system. The original design was to house 400 co-ed inmates in the existing eight housing units. Due to the States overcrowding of inmates in the correctional system, the population of inmates housed at CRCI has reached a high of 510 inmates presenting some special management problems. At times inmates have been housed on temporary cots located in dayroom areas.
Columbia River currently has two housing units of fifty beds each with one dedicated to alcohol and drug treatment and the other for the treatment of the mentally ill. The programs are operated by Turning Point and Bridge Point, which are private, non-profit organizations. Turning Point also operates programs outside the Institution for offenders who are being supervised in the community on parole or probation.
Columbia River Correctional Institution operates a work crew program where offenders work outside the facility under supervision to fulfill the State's legal requirements that inmates perform work while incarcerated. Inmates also work inside the facility keeping their housing unit and the institution clean, preparing meals, performing maintenance and grounds work, and completing sewing projects.
AFSCME Local 3941 (CRCI Security) currently represents approximately seventy correctional officers, corporals and sergeants at Columbia River. These security staff operate a fully functional, minimum security correctional institution and provide support to the various programs within the Institution. In addition to operating CRCI, the security staff also provide support for the South Fork Forest Camp located about seventy miles away from the Institution. CRCI staff are the first responders for the Oregon Department of Corrections staff should the satellite facility need assistance.
AFSCME Local 3941 is active within Oregon AFSCME Council 75. Over fifty percent of the membership participates in AFSCME's PEOPLE program. Members have testified in the legislature, worked on various political campaigns, gathered signatures for successful ballot measure campaigns, as well as providing manpower when asked.