Strategy Intended To Avert Prison Growth
By Steve Elliott
The Oregon Legislature has passed a broad criminal justice bill, HB 3194, that is projected to avert all of the state's anticipated prison growth over the next decade. The bill repeals mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses, and expands the use of presumptive probation in marijuana offenses.
The Oregon House passed the measure last Wednesday by a vote of 40-18; the Oregon Senate approved it 19-11 on Monday.
Without action by the Legislature, Oregon's prison population was projected to grow by 2,000 inmates in the next 10 years. This growth, fueled mostly by nonviolent drug offenses, would have cost taxpayers an additional $600 million.
In order to get Oregon a better return on its public safety dollars, state officials launched a bipartisan working group to analyze sentencing and corrections trends and to generate policy recommendations for the Legislature. The Oregon Commission on Public Safety used state-level data, the growing body of national research about what works in corrections, and meetings with criminal justice experts to develop the policy options that served as a foundation for HB 3194.
"Oregon's public safety package reflects an emerging national consensus on criminal justice policy that locking up more nonviolent offenders for longer prison terms isn't the best way to fight crime and reduce recidivism," said Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' public safety performance project.