Media questions Kitzhaber’s criminal release plan


 HJR 14: Raising taxes with fewer votes?
Author: Christiana Mayer
By Taxpayer Association of Oregon

The Willamette Week has written a superb article about Oregon’s effective prison system and questioning why Governor Kitzhaber would advocate changing it by reduce sentencing (by release criminals early) in order to raise revenue.

Willamette Week featured this chart showing that Oregon’s incarceration rate is low which is contrary to the political hype. With Oregon’s Measure 11’s mandatory minimum sentences law we incarcerates felons around three-quarters of the national average, as it had in 1990. It begs the question — why let out criminals out early?  Governor Kitzhaber submitted a reform plan to the state legislature which was drafted by the Commission on Public Safety which would change how sentences are carried out. For example mandatory minimum sentences would end for second-degree robbery, second-degree assault and first-degree sex abuse. He claims that Oregon could save 60 million a year over the next ten years if this plan is adopted.

The Commission on Public Safety’s members are appointed by Governor Kitzhaber. In 2011 Governor Kitzhaber did not appoint any police officers or prosecutors. In 2012 the committee was changed and Governor Kitzhaber, Paul De Muniz, the chair of the commission, and legislative leaders invited Pew Research to provide assistance to the Commission. Pew Research is based in Washington DC and has been working on the Public Safety Performance Project since 2006. The project helps states to identify reforms to prisons that save money without comprising public safety in the process.

Members of the commission such as Clackamas District Attorney John Foote disagreed with the some of the conclusions that Pew Center on the States reached after analyzing Oregon’s data. For example, Foote does not believe that Oregon was locking up too many low risk inmates as the Pew Center on the States claimed. Foote claimed that Pew used old data when reaching that conclusion and more recent data would show a different outcome. Pew is sending lobbyists to Oregon to lobby to for the proposal which so far has largely gone unnoticed by the general public.  Read more on Oregon’s prison system & the politics behind it here.