Inmate who escaped work crew in June back in custody

South Fork Forest Camp entrance in November 2017. Photo: Chas Hundley

Brandon Sykes, 35, the inmate who walked away from a South Fork Forest Camp work crew on Monday, June 22 is back in custody.

According to a media release from the Oregon Department of Corrections and another from the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office, Sykes turned himself in to the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office around 1:30 p.m. today.

Wearing black shorts and and a black t-shirt, Sykes was driven to the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office by his mother, with someone Sykes described to the Sheriff’s Office as his girlfriend before being contacted in front of the office and turning himself in.

Sykes had been serving time for assault and kidnapping, and wasn’t eligible for release until October 18, 2021, according to the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office. .

Pending additional investigation, the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office will not release further information.

Read more about Sykes’ history with law enforcement here.

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Prior to his escape, Sykes was housed at the South Fork Forest Camp in the Tillamook State Forest, a minimum-security facility jointly operated by the Oregon Department of Corrections and the Oregon Department of Forestry. 

The facility routinely sends inmate work crews on a variety of tasks, such as fighting forest fires in the region, and working on forestry projects. 

Inmates must meet a series of requirements to be eligible to be incarcerated at the 28-acre South Fork Forest Camp, including not having any arson crimes or arrests, sex offenses, animal abuse crimes, violent “person to person crimes where there may be victim issues,” (defined in an email to this newspaper as “an immediate threat to a victim of someone’s crime,” according to Betty Bernt, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Corrections, and must have no escape history, among other requirements.

“An individual’s entire criminal history is reviewed and assessed for risk. Decisions are made depending on severity and circumstance,” said Bernt in an email to the Banks Post & Gales Creek Journal.

According to the Bernt, the agency follows the Oregon Administrative Rule on assessment, assignment, and supervision of inmates for work assignments and unfenced minimum housing

According to the Oregon Department of Corrections, South Fork Forest Camp, established in 1951 as a joint venture between the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Corrections, the facility houses up to 204 incarcerated adults and has a staff of 24. Those who reside there must apply for the program, which sees inmates perform a variety of tasks, usually related to forestry. 

Crews from South Fork are often sent to assist at wildfires in the Tillamook State Forest, and supply labor in replanting efforts, sign building (the sign at the entrance to the Forest Grove Oregon Department of Forestry offices was built by South Fork crews), metal fabrication and tool and equipment repair. The facility is largely self-sustaining in many ways, with a gas station, religious facilities, a small fish hatchery, and auto repair shop. 

Crews also work on campgrounds, trails and trailheads and day use areas throughout the NW Oregon area. 

This is a developing story.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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