A Growing State Deficit

December 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

Measure 73 passed, and it will be at the expense of public schools and health care that Oregonians will have to pay. With Oregon already in a huge deficit, the legislature will have to figure the calculations of all the new corrections’ costs into the state general fund. This is not the first time Oregon has calculated a mandatory minimum sentence into the state fund, but the third.

Measure 11, the first mandatory minimum sentencing law, doubled Oregon’s prison population from 6,000 to 12,000 inmates in just five years. Twenty-one of Oregon’s most violent crimes are included in Measure 11, putting criminals away for anywhere from 70 to 300 months. When the measure passed in 1994, voters wanted to build safer communities and to keep those who made them unsafe locked away for longer periods of time.(4) Alone, Measure 11 has forced Oregon to build more prisons, staff more correctional employees and provide food and housing for more prisoners than anticipated. Oregon’s expenditures now exceed most other states in the US in terms of housing, feeding, and guarding prisoners.

Measure 11 takes a dime out of every dollar spent from the general fund that goes towards state prisons; no other state spends this much of its taxpayer’s money because of just one measure.(10) With an increasing number of prisoners needing treatment for mental, medical, and dental healthcare, Oregon’s 3 billion dollar deficit is turning into a 3.5 billion dollar deficit and still growing.(10 & 5) This takes away money from other services the state funds, such as public education, health care, human services and public safety. The amount of money spent on corrections has increased by 209% since 1985 and is continuing to increase, especially as each mandatory minimum sentencing law that passes.(10)

Not only do Oregon prisons take money from public services, but they also take money from the rehabilitation centers and treatment programs that help to prevent re-offense.(7) Since treatment and rehabilitation are proven to work, taking money from those services and giving it to our state prisons does not make our streets safer, but opens up more opportunities for criminals to re-offend once released.

Measure 73 passed with a 57% yes vote creating mandatory minimum sentences for repeat DUII and sexual assault offenders. The measure implements a 90-day jail sentence for third time DUII offenders and a 25-year minimum sentence for repeat sex offenders for four different crimes: first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration and using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct.(2) Although many people and organizations opposed it, the language of the measure was very influential to Oregonians, especially those who did not read the fine details of the measure. The two candidates for Governor, Republican Chris Dudley and Democrat John Kitzhaber, were against the measure. They both agree that there is no room in the state’s budget to fund it.(2) Some of the organizations that opposed the measure were the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Sexual Assault Support Services, the Oregon Business Association, the Oregon Education Association, Stand for Children, the Oregon Alliance of Retired Americans, the Human Services Coalition of Oregon, the Juvenile Rights Project, and many more. The reason many of these organizations opposed the measure ranged from the unintended consequences it could have on Oregon’s youth(i.e. youth convictions in adult criminal court), the cost of implementing it and the taking away of funds from the services that victims and families need the most.(5)

Kevin Manix, author of Measure 11 and Measure 73, did not consult the activist groups that would be most affected by the measure, which caused great strife with the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and the Sexual Assault Support Services group.(5) Domestic and sexual violence victim advocate organizations are already underfunded and face even larger budget cuts. In 2009, shelter and protection were denied to over 19,500 adults in violent homes because there was not enough funding to house them; this number will grow now that Measure 73 has passed. (7)

One of the main arguments against Measure 73 was the amount of cost to the state. Measure 73’s DUII provision estimates cost for our state to be $1.4 million for the first year, between $11.4 and $14.6 million the second year and $18.1–$29.1 million for every year after the fifth year. This is a large cost increase with no plan as to where the money will come from.(7) Measure 73 leaves Oregon’s legislature with only two choices: they must either suspend the measure like they did with Measure 57, which created mandatory minimum sentences for property and drug offenders, or find a way to modify the measure to make it work.(8) The second part of Measure 73, dealing with repeat sex offenders, will not create extra costs for Oregon until 2017 because sex offenders already serve long mandatory sentences.(7)
Measure 73 was proposed at a time when crime is at its lowest. Crime has continued to decline since 2004; however, the amount of people incarcerated has stayed about the same.(1) This is due to prison sentences lengthening with mandatory minimum sentences. The legislator postponed Measure 57 after Oregonians voted for it to pass in 2008; it will be reinstated in 2012 and is estimated to increase the prison population by 3 to 4 percent annually. It is estimated that the Prison population will reach 15,000 by mid 2014, and by the end of the decade reach 16,000. This prison population was estimated before Measure 73 passed, now that it has, the population will dramatically increase more than expected.(3) The percentage of convictions for a third DUII has decreased from 1998 to 2007 from 5.9% to 3.6%.(7) Why would we need a law to “correct” third time DUII offenders when the rate of offenders is already going down?

It is proven that lengthy jail or prison sentences do not always correct an offender’s behavior. An offender’s behavior can usually change with a combination of short jail terms and rehabilitation and or treatment programs.(4) In the case of a DUII, carefully screening for alcohol related problems is the key to prevent recidivism.(7) Recidivism is most successfully prevented when treatment programs are combined with other sanctions that limit offenders’ driving opportunities. Suspending an offender’s license or installing breathalyzers into their cars have been proven to work.(9)

Mandatory minimum sentences increase the likeliness of a plea bargain and, in most cases an offender will plea to a lesser including offense to get out of long mandatory sentences instead of pleading to the appropriate offense.(6) Many offenders who are put into prison for lengthy sentences will eventually be released, without placement in appropriate treatment or rehabilitation programs. We are putting criminals back into mainstream population without any real correctional treatment, a recipe for recidivism. Measure 73 only offers punitive sanctions to offenders, because if this; the measure will actually take money away from other treatment programs that help prevent re-offense.(7)

Many counties in Oregon are attempting to utilize rehabilitation and treatment programs to prevent re-offense for DUII offenders. By identifying the “problem drinkers” from the beginning, treatment or rehabilitation can be administered by the first offense to prevent re-offense. Multnomah County is one of the counties that has started evaluating DUII offenders differently, in order to prevent third offenses that will lead to the use of Measure 73.(8)

A “one size fits all approach” is not the way to go. The Oregon legislator should find a way to modify Measure 73 to help make the measure more cost effective. This could include implementation of county court systems to better screen DUII offenders on their first offense to determine if they are a “problem drinker,” and to provide appropriate sanctions for each individual case instead of treating each case as the same. Until something is done to help prevent offenders from re-offending, Oregon’s deficit will continue to grow at the price of education and human services that help keep our youth out of the criminal justice system.

(1)Bernstein, Maxine. “Crime rate in Oregon drops to lowest levels in four decades.” The Oregonian. 13 Sept. 2010.
(2)Gustafson, Alan. “Measure 73 criticized as ‘unfunded mandate’.” Statesman Journal, 5 Oct. 2010.
(3)“Oregon Corrections Population Forecast.” Office of Economic Analysis, 1 Oct. 2010.
(4)Marcus, Michael. “How we get smart on crime.” The Oregonian, 5 Oct. 2010.
(5)“Measure 73 Passes, Making Legislators Job More Complicated.” The Partnership for Safety and Justice, 4 Nov. 2010.
(6)Merritt, N.; Fain, T.; Turner, S. “Oregon’s Measure 11 Sentencing Reform: Implementation and System Impact.” Rand Public Safety and Justice, May 2004.
(7)Naughton, Kerry. “Would Measure 73 Make Us Safer?” Partnership for Safety and Justice, 9 Sept. 2010.
(8)Neilson, Susan. “Aftermath of Measure 73: Voters Tell State to Sober up on DUII.” The Oregonian. 3 Nov. 2010.
(9)Skipper, Bob. “Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office: Ten Year Review of DUII Data: 1998 to 2007.” Aug. 2008.
(10)Zaitz, Les. “Hard Choices: Big Part of Oregon’s Prison Budget is All Locked Up.” The Oregonian, 27 Sept. 2010.

Part 2:
The Oregonian article, “Crime rate in Oregon drops to lowest levels in four decade,” shows how Oregon’s crime rate has been declining. It showed that Oregon does not need more mandatory minimum sentencing laws right now because of the declining crime rate. It also showed that not only has Oregon’s crime rate been declining, but that the nation’s crime rate has as well.

The Statesman Journal, “Measure 73 criticized as ‘unfunded mandate’,” was used to support my research because it gave valuable information on the specific sex crimes Measure 73 has imposed mandatory minimum sentences to. It also gave information on the political figures who opposed the measure. It was valuable for informing my writing by helping me explain detailed information on measure 73, as well as why some important figures opposed the measure.

“Oregon Corrections Population Forecast,” supported my piece because it gave valuable information on how the prison population has increased, and why it will continue to increase with Measure 57. The April 2011 version will have more information on how Measure 73 will increase the population. However, the forecast does state that Measure 73 will greatly increase the prison population more than Measure 57 will, when it is reinstated.

The Oregonian, “How we get smart on crime,” was used to show why Oregonians voted to pass mandatory minimum sentencing laws. It showed what getting “tough on crime” really meant. It also showed that an offender’s behavior could usually change with short jail terms, which helped show how long mandatory minimum sentences will not always help keep our communities safer.

The Partnership for Safety and Justice, “Measure 73 Passes, Making Legislators Job More Complicated,” showed me how the legislature will have to address the cost of Measure 73. It gave valuable information on how much the measure will cost the state as well as how much of a deficit our state is already dealing with. It also showed me some of the organizations that opposed the measure and why they felt the way they did.

“Oregon’s Measure 11 Sentencing Reform: Implementation and System Impact,” was used to support my research by giving me valuable information on Measure 11. It showed me what types of crimes are included in Measure 11 as well as how long the sentences are. It gave me information on “get tough” sentencing and the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences. It showed me information on the history of mandatory minimum sentences and gave examples of case proceedings.

Partnership of Safety and Justice, “Would Measure 73 Make Us Safer?” Showed me in-depth information on both the DUII and Sexual Assault provision of Measure 73. Many articles did not give in-depth information on the sexual assault provision, so this piece was very useful. It told me where the money would be taken from to fund Measure 73 as well as how much money it would cost. It also showed how DUII convictions have declined.

The Oregonian, “Aftermath of Measure 73: Voters Tell State to Sober up on DUII,” gave information on how individual counties are working to change how they sentence people convicted of DUIIs. They are working to identify “problem drinkers” from the beginning to prevent offenders from re-offending. It told me the percentage of yes votes on Measure 73 and why the measure passing was a sure thing. It also shows how other state programs will be affected because of the cost of the measure.

“Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office: Ten Year Review of DUII Data: 1998 to 2007,” gave valuable information on the rate of recidivism on DUII offenders in Oregon. It showed what type of sanctions work to help prevent people from re-offending. It also gave offender characteristics and the type of people who would most likely be “problem drinkers.”

The Oregonian, “Hard Choices: Big Part of Oregon’s Prison Budget is All Locked Up,” shows the amount of money Measure 73 will cost our state. It also gave valuable information comparing the amount of money surrounding states spend on corrections. It showed the amount of money that is spent to staff employees for state prisons as well as how much is spent on prisoner’s medical costs.

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