Measure 94 Debate
CRIME VICTIMS UNITED
Measure 94 would repeal Measure 11, reducing sentences for most violent criminals and sex offenders. It requires resentencing over 3000 violent criminals and sex offenders within 90 days of the November 2000 election. Reliable estimates are that between 800 and 1300 offenders would be released within 90 days of the election.
The arguments used by Measure 94 proponents are mostly weak or false or flat-out misrepresentations. Here is a sampling of their arguments, with replies from Crime Victims United.
• Voters who approved Measure 11 in 1994 were under the incorrect impression that crime was increasing.
Violent crime in Oregon was increasing from 1990 to 1994, the period when Measure 94 sentences were in effect. The turnaround started in 1995, when lenient Measure 94 sentences were replaced with Measure 11 sentences.
(Source: Oregon Law Enforcement Agencies Report of Criminal Offenses and Arrests)
• People who commit relatively minor crimes like shoplifting, stealing two dollars or taking drugs are sentenced to long prison terms under Measure 11.
This is a fiction put out by Measure 94 supporters. There are NO minor Measure 11 crimes. Robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape and child molestation, manslaughter, attempted murder, murder - which of these is minor? Shoplifting, stealing, burglary, drug possession and even drug dealing are not Measure 11 crimes.
• Measure 11 sends children to adult prisons.
All youth, sentenced under Measure 11 or not, go to the Oregon Youth Authority, not to adult prison. At OYA they receive education, counseling and treatment. They can remain there until age 25. The only way they get to adult prison is to assault another youth, refuse all treatment, or to reach age 18 and repeatedly insist on being transferred.
• Youth sentenced under Measure 11 receive no rehabilitation.
At the Oregon Youth Authority, youth receive all the education, counseling and treatment that they want. Anyone who wants to emerge an educated, law-abiding citizen has every opportunity to do so.
• Under Measure 11, six times as many youth have been sent to adult court compared to prior years.
That's right. The voters of Oregon were sick and tired of seeing youth given sentences as low as probation for crimes as serious as brutal assaults that left people permanently impaired and the rape of a young child. So under Measure 11, people 15 or older who commits serious robberies, aggravated assaults, kidnapping, rape and child molestation, manslaughter, attempted murder and murder are tried in adult court and receive adult sentences.
Under the Measure 94 system, a youth who is kept in juvenile court, even a 17-year-old murderer, must be released from custody at age 21.
• No judge would ever order Kip Kinkel to be tried as a juvenile.
You would certainly hope so. But if you knew some of the juvenile court judges we have in Oregon, you would worry.
In one case in Multnomah County, a juvenile court judge gave a sentence of probation to a youth who raped a 4-year-old girl. He ignored the terms of his probation but nothing was done about it. Not long after, he brutally assaulted another young man with no provocation whatsoever, leaving his victim with permanent brain damage. The same judge refused to waive the youth to adult court. Instead, he received the customary lenient justice of the juvenile court system.
• Measure 11 affects minorities disproportionately.
Violent crime affects minorities disproportionately. FBI statistics show that an African-American is SIX TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE MURDERED than a Caucasian! Measure 94 hurts minority communities disproportionately by putting violent criminals back in minority communities. Innocent, law-abiding minority men, women and children will pay the price. In 1999, one quarter of all murders committed in Portland (9 of 36) occurred in Northeast Portland (The Oregonian, 8/28/2000).
Measure 11 has benefited minorities disproportionately. Here are some statistics reported in The Oregonian on 8/28/2000: a 27% drop in overall serious crime in Northeast Portland since 1997; a 46% drop in rape; a 39% drop in robbery; a 25% drop in aggravated assault.
• Most people sentenced under Measure 11 are "first-time offenders".
The Department of Corrections figures that Measure 94 proponents quote do not include convictions for juvenile, out-of-state and out-of-country crimes. They also do not include some serious misdemeanors. The Department of Corrections has acknowledged this.
In a random sample of 50 Measure 11 criminals done in Multnomah County, 84 % had prior convictions. Among the 16 percent who did not were two who had molested children over a long period.
• First-time offenders are sentenced the same as hardened criminals.
It's true that, under Measure 11, the first time you rape someone, the first time you kill someone, you receive a significant sentence. For the crimes of RobberyII, Assault II and Kidnapping II, in the absence of aggravating factors, the judge can exempt "first-time offenders" from Measure 11 sentencing.
Also, what Measure 94 supporters call "first-time offenders" are in many cases people who have committed many crimes and finally got caught. Most robbers and most child molesters are not caught and convicted on their first time.
Under Measure 11, the man who slashed the throat of a 10-year-old Dallas, OR boy was sentenced to 6 years for a prior molestation. Under Measure 94, he would be resentenced as a first-time offender for that prior offense, even if the molestation went on for months or years. His new sentence would be no more than 18 months and he would receive 20% "good time".
Measure 94 proponents are promoting the idea that a person has a right to lenient treatment the first time they are convicted for a serious crime. This kind of thinking is a holdover from an era that saw decreasing accountability and respect for law and increasing victimization. It is a holdover from sentencing systems that Oregon voters repudiated when they passed Measure 11. We hope that voters will repudiate this idea again by defeating Measure 94, and that everyone will come together to send the same message: we will no longer make excuses for people who commit violent crimes.
• 400 Measure 11 criminals will be released next year even if Measure 94 is defeated.
The 400 criminals who will be released next year if Measure 94 is defeated committed Robbery II and Assault II.
The 800 criminals who will be released in the first 90 days alone if Measure 94 passes committed robbery, assault, kidnapping, child molestation, rape, manslaughter and attempted murder.
If Measure 94 is defeated, the 111 murderers will start coming out in 2020. If it passes, they will start coming out in 2003.
• Measure 11 gives too much power to prosecutors.
The criminal gives the power to the prosecutor when he commits the crime. Not only the prosecutor, but the grand jury and the judge or jury at trial must concur on the question of guilt or innocence before the criminal is sentenced.
• Because of Measure 11, innocent people are making plea bargains to lesser crimes.
Measure 94 supporters have floated this argument but have put forth not one single credible case.
• Judges have no discretion under Measure 11.
• Measure 11 has taken discretion away from judges.
Judges had little discretion under Measure 94 sentences when they were in effect from 1990 to 1994.
Judges have the discretion to exempt certain people convicted of robbery, assault or kidnapping from Measure 11 sentencing.
Judges have full discretion to choose concurrent or consecutive sentences.
• Measure 94 gives judges the discretion to fit the punishment to the crime.
This is a fiction put out by Measure 94 supporters.
Under the sentencing system that Measure 94 would return to, in the vast majority of cases, the sentence is determined not by the judge but solely by the criminal's prior record. Under Measure 94, if you have no prior serious convictions and commit a murder, the range of sentences available to the judge starts at 10 years and ends at 10 years and one month.
In order to receive the maximum 22 year Measure 94 sentence for murder, you must have three prior convictions for "person" crimes. Yet Measure 94 chief petitioners imply that a judge can choose a sentence from 10 to 22 years. Under Measure 94, it is not the judge who chooses the sentence, but the criminal, by his prior record.
• If people don't like the job judges are doing, they can vote them out of office.
In the last election (May, 2000), there were 70 judicial seats up for election. 65 of the 70 elections were uncontested - there was only one candidate. In other words, voters had no choice.
Even in the five elections that were contested, there was no real opportunity to know how the candidates stood on criminal justice issues. Candidates for judge are prohibited from discussing substantive issues by their own "judicial canon codes."
A member of Crime Victims United felt that she got a raw deal from a judge in a case involving the killing of her brother. She wanted to get a complete record of the judge's prior rulings but was stymied. She was told that she could not get records unless she had court case numbers, and no list of the judges court cases is available. In other words, if you wanted to oppose a judge's re-election based on his record, you would have a very hard time finding out what that record was.
• Measure 11 sentences were cooked up at Kevin Mannix's kitchen table.
Measure 11 sentences were approved by a two-thirds majority of Oregon voters in 1994.
Let's see how Measure 94 sentences were determined. A group of experts studied all available information. They investigated and deliberated. And they came up with an 8-year prison term for murder. No one with a clue of what murder means to the victim and the family could come up with such a sentence. Perhaps a few people with common sense can do better than a roomful of clueless experts.
• Measure 11 costs too much money.
In 1994, the state's estimated cost for Measure 11 as expressed in the voter's pamphlet was $200 million per year. The voters approved it by a two-thirds majority.
This year, the state's estimated cost for Measure 11 as expressed in the voter's pamphlet is one-quarter of the original estimate. It costs each Oregonian about $15/year for fitting sentences for 3000+ violent criminals.
This analysis does not take into account the cost savings from the sharp decline in violent crime since Measure 11 passed - 10,000 fewer person crimes per year. The investigation of one crime, the slashing of the Dallas boy's throat, required 20,000 hours of police work.
• Measure 11 takes money away from education.
• We're spending more money on prisons than on education.
We spend about $57 on education for each dollar spent for Measure 11 sentences.
• We should rely on prevention, not incarceration.
We are all in favor of effective prevention. Prevention is what you do before the crime.
As called for by the Oregon Constitution, after the crime is the time for protection of society, accountability, and reformation.
Keeping violent criminals in prison prevents crimes - not only new crimes that they would commit, but also new crimes committed by impressionable youth whom they would recruit into criminal activities.
• Measure 11 seeks vengeance at the expense of society's future well being.
Some people call any punishment "vengeance". Punishment is not a four-letter word - it is an essential component of justice.
People who use this "vengeance" argument express great sympathy for convicted violent criminals and yet appear to be insensitive to the pain of their past victims and indifferent to the pain of their future victims. When confronted with this pain, they literally shrug their shoulders.
• Measure 11 takes money away from crime prevention programs.
Despite spending for Measure 11, the Oregon Legislature has approved unprecedented spending for juvenile crime prevention. The voters of Oregon are willing to pay for prevention of future crimes as well as for accountability for crimes already committed.
The 1999-2000 Oregon Legislature approved Senate Bill 555. This bill appropriates 20 million dollars over two years for juvenile crime prevention. This is far more money than will be spent for Measure 11 sentences for youths who commit crimes of violence and sex abuse during that two-year period.
If Senate Bill 555 is successful at preventing crime, this will further reduce the need to spend money for Measure 11 sentences. No one will be happier about this than Measure 11 supporters.
If the voters of Oregon believe that Senate Bill 555 spending is effective at preventing crime, they will gladly support continuation and even expansion of this funding. It is a fallacy to say that we can have prevention or incarceration but not both. Both are necessary in a civilized society.
• Instead of imprisonment, we should be using alternative sentencing like restitution, boot camp, community service, strict probation, work centers and house arrest.
Such programs have their place for minor crimes. When it comes to violent crimes, they are completely inappropriate.
• Sentencing guidelines were working fine before Measure 11 was approved.
Do you call serving 2 1/2 years for a rape or 8 years for a murder fine?
Under Measure 11, the man who slashed the throat of a 10-year-old Dallas, OR boy was sentenced to 6 years for a prior molestation. Under Measure 94, he would be resentenced as a first-time offender for that prior offense, even if the molestation went on for months or years. His new sentence would be no more than 18 months and he would receive 20% "good time". Do you call this working?
• Cases like Frey and Thorpe show that Measure 11 sentences are too long.
There are a small number of cases in which the Measure 11 sentence does not fit the crime. This is in contrast to the Measure 94 sentencing system, under which the majority of the sentences are not fitting.
Measure 11 has been improved in the past, through the efforts of Measure 11 supporters. We have repeatedly proposed additional improvements that would have addressed these very cases, but we did not receive support from Measure 11 opponents. Why? Because they want to use this very small number of cases to slash sentences for all violent criminals.
• Long sentences do not deter criminals.
There are certainly violent criminals who can not be deterred. We need Measure 11 to protect us from these people.
The consistent decline in violent crime since Measure 11 passed, 10,000 fewer violent crimes per year statewide, indicates that there are also some people who might consider a violent crime but who are not completely irrational and can be deterred. In these cases, Measure 11 has spared innocent people from robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape, molestation, manslaughter and murder.
We hope that, once Measure 94 is soundly defeated, Measure 94 proponents will stop making every excuse under the sun for violent criminals. If they do, more people will finally get the idea that they will be held accountable. This will enhance the deterrent effect of Measure 11.
• Measure 11 has nothing to do with the decrease in violent crime.
1500 fewer juvenile arrests per year since Measure 11 went into effect. (Source: OYA report)
2500 fewer robberies, assaults, rapes, and murders in Portland alone since Measure 11 went into effect. (Source: Portland STACS report)
10,000 fewer violent crimes per year in Oregon since Measure 11 went into effect. (Source: Oregon Law Enforcement Agencies Report of Criminal Offenses and Arrests.)
And Measure 94 proponents would have you believe that this is all a coincidence.
They would have you believe that releasing 800 to 1300 violent criminals and sex offenders in a 90-day period, most of whom have committed multiple serious offenses, will not result in additional violent crimes and additional victims.
Dan Golden, the assistant director of the Klamath County Juvenile Department, did a survey of youths in juvenile detention. Results were published in the Klamath Herald and News and on the Oregon Live web page. Eighty-five percent of the youth he surveyed said that knowing about Measure 11 made them less likely to commit a Measure 11 crime.
We have heard many reports from police officers, parole officers, prosecutors and juvenile corrections officers that confirm Dan Golden's survey.
Look in the newspaper. Every day crimes are reported that were perpetrated by people who received lenient sentences from the Measure 94 sentencing system when it was in effect from November, 1989 through March, 1995.
It is absurd to say that Measure 11 has nothing to do with the decrease in violent crime.
• Why are you people so fanatical?
If Measure 94 passes, 3300 violent criminals and sex offenders will be resentenced. 800 of them will be released in the first 90 days alone. Most of these people had convictions before their Measure 11 crime. It is clear that additional innocent people will be victims of robbery, assault, kidnapping, sex abuse, rape, manslaughter, attempted murder and murder. In other words, this is literally a life-or-death matter.
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