by Kevin L. Mannix, Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance
The Criminal Justice Commission just released a study on the application of Measure 11, since it was passed overwhelmingly by the voters in 1994. They did not consult with me about the study, although I authored the initiatve measure and have been active in criminal justice issues as a legislator and Oregon citizen. I thought my views on the Criminal Justice Commission’s report might be of interest to others.
When it comes to Measure 11 evaluations, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (appointed by the Governor) and its political allies have struck out.
Strike One: In 1994 the political power elites prepared predictions of high numbers of inmates to be in prison if Measure 11, then on the ballot, passed. As the author of Measure 11, I challenged their assertions. I said their predictions were twice as high as would occur, especially since they assumed the violent crime rate would not go down significantly.
For the first 10 years after Measure 11 went into effect in 1995, Oregon led the nation (first out of 50 states) in the reduction of violent crime. The number of inmates incarcerated under Measure 11 turned out to be half the number the government predicted in 1994.
Strike Two: In recent draft reports, the Commission and its allies claimed that Measure 11 did not have a strong deterrent effect, and claimed this was the primary argument in favor of Measure 11 back in 1994. A Deputy District Attorney (not on the Commission) wondered about this, and asked me. I went through all the campaign materials and news materials in our records and reported that we proponents had never singled out deterrence as a key factor. We emphasized accountability and justice.
Strike Three: now, the Commission asserts that my intention with Measure 11 was that mandatory minimum sentences would be guaranteed as to the crimes CHARGED. They point out that, for many reasons, ultimate convictions are for lesser offenses so the Measure 11 sentences for the crimes CHARGED were not imposed.
Those of us with a modicum of knowledge about criminal justice know that sentences are to be imposed as to the crime of CONVICTION, not the crime originally charged. We proponents of Measure 11 have said that a given conviction for a violent crime should lead to at least the mandatory prison sentence for that conviction.
Guess what: since 1995, there have been only two cases where themandatory minimum sentence of Measure 11 was not imposed after conviction, out of thousands of convictions. So, we have a 99%-plus guarantee rate.
It would help if the Criminal Justice Commission and its allies would have bothered to ask me when they try, in recent writings, to characterize the “intentions” of Measure 11 proponents. My law office is ten blocks from the Capitol, and I would be happy to visit with them, or even answer their email or phone calls. They have never asked.
So, they have Struck Out in terms of credibility.
We ought to be celebrating our success in public safety in this state. Since Measure 11 went into effect, we have moved from being among the worst 10 states, in terms of violent crime rate, to being among the best 10 states. This is remarkable. I imagine if our high school graduation rates had seen such a turn-around, political leaders would be dancing in the streets.
Perhaps the political elites are not leading a celebration because most of them opposed Measure 11 in the first place.