Measure 73: How prison saves tax dollars

Doug Harcleroad, Senior Policy Advisor
Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance

Ballot Measure 73 sets 25-year mandatory minimum sentences for very serious repeat sex offenders and 90-day mandatory minimum jail sentences for third-time-convicted intoxicated drivers. The third conviction is also designated a felony.


According to the Estimate of Financial Impact in the Voters’ Pamphlet, the repeat sex offender provisions have no cost to the state for 7 years. After that, because the measure is narrowly targeted at very serious repeat sex offenders, only a few additional prison beds are needed for the estimated 13 qualifying offenders per year. In short, for virtually no cost, serious repeat sex offenders are incarcerated for long periods of time where they cannot hurt additional victims. And… According to Ted Miller, et al, in a U.S. Department of Justice publication titled, Victim Cost & Consequences: A New Look (1996), the cost per adult sexual assault is estimated to be $87,000 per episode of sexual violence. As high as this number is, it does not include any costs associated with childhood sexual abuse or costs incurred by businesses, the criminal justice system, or society at large. Not to mention it is in 1996 dollars and is not adjusted for inflation.

So, by locking up serious repeat sex offenders for 25 years, we actually STOP them from committing more crimes (zero recidivism) and save $87,000 per episode not committed. It’s a good deal for all law-abiding Oregonians!


According to the Estimate of Financial Impact in the Voters’ Pamphlet:

“The measure will require additional state spending of $1.4 million in the first year, $11.4 million to $14.6 million in the second year, $13.9 million to $21.0 million in the third year, $16.7 million to $26.6 million in the fourth year, and $18.1 million to $29.1 million each year after that.

The measure does not require additional local government spending. The measure directly reduces expenditures for local government by $0.4 million in the first year and $3.2 million to $4.6 million each year after that, primarily by shifting costs to the state.“ (Emphasis added.)

So, what do Oregonians get for the costs estimated above? According to the Criminal Justice Commission, over the five-year period somewhere between 400 and 600 third-conviction intoxicated drivers will be incarcerated each year for about 16 months each. Oregonians get third-time-convicted intoxicated drivers “locked up.” So what? Well…

Almost everyone knows that intoxicated drivers, be it their first, second, third etc. time are dangerous drivers. Most people do not know that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers with one or more prior intoxicated driving convictions are 40% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those without a prior intoxicated driving conviction. Oregonians get safer highways and roads when the repeat drunken drivers are not on them. But that is not all Oregonians get – we also get big societal cost savings. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has had the economic cost of each drunken driving related fatality calculated, and it is a whopping $1,210,000! Aside from the agonizing heartache to family and friends, these costs include ambulance, paramedics, court costs, jail, law enforcement, medical, premature burial costs, lost wages, increased health insurance costs, and increased auto insurance costs.

In 2008, there were 233 alcohol, drug, or alcohol and drug related fatalities on Oregon highways. If we “lock up” repeat intoxicated drivers, we have a chance to reduce this annual death toll on our roads and, over time, save the economic cost of over $1,000,000 per fatality. Measure 73 is a “good buy” for Oregonians.

The material above demonstrates the wisdom and cost/benefit of Measure 73, but there is more evidence that Measure 73 will make us safer and be cost effective. In the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission’s 2007 Report to the Legislature, they stated, “Recent research indicates that incarceration significantly effects crime rates.” A 10% increase in a state’s incarceration rate leads to a two-to-four percent decline in the crime rate. And the report indicates that over $4.00 of benefit is generated for every $1.00 spent incarcerating a violent offender. Thus, Measure 73, by locking up repeat drunken drivers will generate cost savings using the Oregon Criminal Justice commission’s violent criminal analysis.

It is hard to put into words the agony caused by repeat sex offenders and repeat intoxicated drivers. The harm caused by these two classes of criminals is gigantic. As a long time (34 years) prosecutor, I have witnessed the agony and harm up close. Measure 73 is a part of reducing the agony and harm. Other preventive measures such as strengthening ignition interlock laws and beefing up effective alcohol and drug treatment are on the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance agenda.

Doug Harcleroad
Senior Policy Advisor