Letter To 2002 Candidates


On October 12, 2002, Crime Victims United President Steve Doell wrote the following letter to Oregon candidates for elective office.

Dear Candidate:

Now that we are in the height of election season, you may be called on to state views and take positions on matters of public safety and criminal justice. It is critical that your views and positions regarding the first duty of government - protecting its citizens - be based on accurate information and an understanding of history.

From 1960 through 1979, the violent crime rate in Oregon rose 678 percent while the rate of incarceration rose 33 percent. The increase in the reported violent crime rate was 20 times greater than the increase in the prison incarceration rate.1 The violent crime rate stayed near that peak level from 1979 through 1995.

After decades of failure to respond, in recent years the criminal justice pendulum has swung toward protection of society, personal responsibility and accountability. This has changed attitudes in Oregon and contributed to turning the tide. The violent crime rate dropped in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. This represents a cumulative prevention of 26,000 robberies, aggravated assaults, forcible rapes and non-negligent homicides.

Since 1995, responding to the clear mandate of the voters, the State of Oregon has incarcerated approximately 4000 violent criminals and serious sex offenders under Measure 11. The Office of Economic Analysis estimates that over 2000 of these offenders would be on the street without Measure 11.

From 1960 through 1984, while violent crime rose by a factor of 7.2, the State of Oregon built one new prison with a capacity of 400 beds. Now that the people of Oregon have decided to hold violent criminals strictly accountable, we have to make up for past failures.

The state has constructed prisons for this purpose and more are planned. To put this into perspective, the current cost of paying for all prison construction, past and present, in the State of Oregon is approximately $50 million per year, or less than one percent of the state budget. The cost of building and operating those prisons accounts for approximately 6.4 percent of the state budget. This is the price for protecting the people of Oregon and establishing clear consequences for the commission of violent crimes.

[ You can obtain more information on crime rates, incarceration rates and prison construction at the Crime Victims United web site or by contacting Howard Rodstein, Crime Victims United Policy and Research Director. ]

You may have recently received a survey from a group calling itself "Crime Victims for Justice". A number of candidates have contacted us because the name of this group is so similar to ours. We want to make it clear who "Crime Victims for Justice" is and what they stand for.

"Crime Victims for Justice" was created in 1999 to oppose all of the crime victims' rights and criminal justice initiatives on the November, 1999 ballot. They received inordinately large contributions from the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and from 175 other lawyers, most of whom are criminal defense attorneys. In 2000, some of their directors again joined the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, individual criminal defense lawyers, and the families of criminals in making large contributions to the Measure 94 campaign to repeal Measure 11 and retroactively slash minimum sentences for robbers, kidnappers, child molesters, rapists and murderers.

Although "Crime Victims for Justice" includes a few bona fide victims, their agenda is perfectly aligned with the agenda of the criminal defense bar and in stark opposition to the views of most crime victims and law-abiding Oregonians. Although they portray themselves as working in the interests of victims, and some of them even believe it, the actual impact of their efforts is in the interests of criminals, to the detriment of victims.

In 1999 and now, the similarity between the names Crime Victims United and "Crime Victims for Justice" has been a source of confusion. Considering their record, a more accurate name for their group would be "Crime Victims for Criminal Defense Lawyers and Criminals" .

The "Crime Victims for Justice" survey asked "Do you support Oregon's $2 billion prison expansion plan?" The reality is that Oregon has no $2 billion prison expansion plan. A $1 billion plan was formulated by the Department of Corrections in 1996. At that time, the state estimated a need for 19,592 prison beds by July, 2005. The current forecast for July, 2005 is 12,786 (see note 1 below). Because prison population has grown much slower than originally anticipated, projects have been deferred for years and to date approximately 60 percent of the projected amount has been spent. This expenditure must be amortized over the 100-year projected life of these facilities.

[ You can find more information on "Crime Victims for Justice" , their financing and their survey at www.crimevictimsunited.org. ]

Crime Victims United was founded in 1983 by a group of members of Parents of Murdered Children for the purpose of establishing crime victims' rights and advocating for accountability in the criminal justice system through political action and public education.

Over the past 19 years, Crime Victims United has worked, successfully in many cases, with the Oregon legislature on laws to protect the rights of crime victims and enhance public safety.

In 1995 Crime Victims United joined partners across the state in crafting Senate Bill 1, which, responding to escalating and out-of-control juvenile crime, totally revamped the juvenile justice system and created the Oregon Youth Authority.

In 1997 we conceived and sponsored Senate Bill 614, which completely revised Oregon's child abuse and murder statutes. In 1997, we sponsored Senate Bill 1049 and in 2002 we sponsored House Bill 2379, which gave judges discretion in certain Measure 11 cases where there was no use of a deadly weapon, no previous violent felony convictions, and no significant physical injury to the victim. These are but a few examples from 19 years of working closely with the legislature.

In instances where legislative initiatives failed, we have submitted our ideas to Oregon voters. Crime Victims United sponsored or campaigned for Ballot Measure 8 in 1984, Measure 10 in 1986, Measures 10, 11 and 17 in 1994, Measures 26 and 40 in 1996, and Measures 69 through 75 in 1999. In 2000, we led the opposition to Ballot Measure 94, the initiative to repeal Measure 11.

Members of Crime Victims United have worked with government for nearly two decades to ensure that public safety and the rights of victims receive the consideration they are due. We have served on the Sentencing Guidelines Commission, the Oregon Youth Authority Executive Advisory Board, the Governor's Task Force on Juvenile Crime, the Attorney General's Task Force on Restitution, and in many other capacities.

Crime Victims United has also worked with hundreds of individual victims, helping them navigate through the bureaucracy to find justice in the criminal justice system.

I appreciate the time you have taken to read this letter and to give consideration to these important crime victims' and public safety issues.


Steve Doell, President

Note 1: An additional 1,737 are forecast to be in "local control" - in county jails or under alternative sanctions such as house arrest or electronic monitoring, under SB 1145.

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