Crime Victims United opposes suspending Measure 57

By Crime Victims United,

Crime Victims United urges you to vote no on HB 2335.

– HB 2335 breaks faith with the voters by preventing the implementation of Measure 57. Suspending Measure 57 will damage the credibility of the Legislature.
– HB 2335 undermines the credibility of Oregon’s criminal justice system by permanently weakening truth-in-sentencing, post-prison supervision and probation.
– Oregonians oppose suspending Measure 57 and increasing earned time.
– The budget gap can be closed without suspending Measure 57 or increasing earned time using a plan supported by Crime Victims United, MADD, the Oregon District Attorneys Association, the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance and Parents of Murdered Children.

Please read my testimony (attached) on HB 2335 before casting your vote.

House Bill 2335 B, June 8, 2009

The concern of Crime Victims United is to maintain the credibility of Oregon’s criminal justice system. We recognize that we are in the midst of an unprecedented budget shortfall. Crime Victims United has offered a proposal in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, the Oregon District Attorneys Association and Parents of Murdered Children. Our proposal responds to the current fiscal crisis while maintaining the integrity of the criminal justice system.

Our proposal provides the required savings without permanently reversing the policies and systems put in place by the voters of Oregon and the Oregon Legislature over the last 20 years. Among these policies is an increase in incarceration. This increased incarceration prevents 100,000 crimes in Oregon each year.

The is a fact that some people refuse to acknowledge: Increased incarceration, as adopted by the voters and the legislature, prevents 100,000 crimes in Oregon each year. I will be happy to provide confirmation from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission of this fact. We categorically oppose the suspension of Measure 57.

We categorically oppose any increase in earned time.

These changes are not needed to fill the budget hole. We believe that once these steps are taken, Measure 57 will never return and 30% earned time will become a permanent fixture. Such changes would be the initial step in a process that would eventually unravel the progress of the last 20 years. That would take us back to the late 1980’s. Some of you may not remember, Oregon had experienced decades of rising violent crime with little response, leading to a meltdown of our criminal justice system.

From the Salem Statesman Journal of February 21, 1988:

Oregon’s new corrections director is quick to admit that the state prison system has lost its credibility — with law-abiding residents and with criminals themselves. “We don’t have a deterrent to the guys on the street,” Michael Franke says. “We’ve lost control of it.”

Our responsibility is to address the budget crisis without undermining the credibility of our criminal justice system.

From some quarters you will hear that the last 20 years of policy changes have created a corrections’ system that is tantamount to turning Oregon into a penal colony. For example, you will hear a statistic from the Pew organization that Oregon ranks number 1 in spending on corrections. And an Oregonian newspaper headline recently blared “Budget crisis could curtail Oregon’s prison boom.”

Oregon has no prison boom. It is true that Oregon’s prison population doubled in the decade following the passage of Measure 11. This increase was the intended result of a mandate from the Oregon voters in 1994 and reaffirmed in 2000. But this is over. Over the last four years, Oregon’s prison population “To promote a balanced criminal justice system through public awareness and legislative action” increased at a rate of 1.65 percent per year. This is in line with the growth of the overall population of the state. This is hardly a boom.

Year Percent Increase in Prison Population 2005-2006 1.8 2006-2007 2.5 2007-2008 0.7 2008-2009 1.6

Source: Oregon Department of Administrative Services Prison Population Forecast And how can Oregon possibly rank number 1 in corrections spending when we rank 30th in prison incarceration rate?

In fact we have arrived at a measured and balanced system.

“¢ 69 percent of Oregon prison inmates are serving time for violent and sex crimes, 18 percent for property crimes and 10 percent for illegal drug manufacturing and dealing. No one in Oregon is serving time in prison for illegal drug use. “¢ 77 percent of Oregon criminals convicted of felonies receive non-prison sentences. “¢ 59 percent of Oregon criminals convicted of Measure 11 Second-Degree Assault receive sentences below the Measure 11 mandatory minimum. “¢ Half of juveniles convicted of second-degree Measure 11 crimes receive sentences below the Measure 11 mandatory minimum and of that group, 40 percent receive probation sentences.

I will be happy to provide references for these statistics if you would like them.

The penal colony view of Oregon is a mirage created by people whose aim is to roll back the progress of the last two decades. They do this under the slogan “Smart on Crime”. But we’ve been there before and it was not so smart. They paint a pretty picture of a future in which more criminals on the street results in less crime. This is a nice fantasy but it would be an ugly reality.

We believe that the proposal of Crime Victims United and our partners is the best solution for filling the budget gap while maintaining the integrity of Oregon’s criminal justice system. By preserving Measure 57, we incarcerate the worst property offenders at the height of their criminality and keep faith with the will of the Oregon voters.

By contrast, HB 2335 B suspends Measure 57 for 2 ½ years and places into jeopardy its return into Oregon statute. The earned time provision of HB 2335 B for four years further undermines truth in sentencing and, along with it, the credibility of Oregon’s criminal justice system.

Other provisions of HB 2335 B water down post-prison supervision and probation. The upshot of these changes is to transition to “probation/parole lite” — with the vague aroma of the original product, but less filling and less satisfying. In all seriousness — less safe.

We ask you to vote “No” on HB 2335 B.