CVU Responds to Article on DOC Budget


On January 23, 2005, the Bend Bulletin ran an article entitled "Lawmakers may rethink Measure 11". This gist of the article is that the cost of Measure 11 is driving legislators to think of ways to trim it back. 

Crime Victims United responded to James Sinks, the author of the article. Here is our response.

Dear James:

Your recent article on Measure 11 was interesting and presented a lot of good factual information and some spirited points of view. For background information I would like to comment on a few of its points.

A major thrust of the article is that the Department of Corrections budget is slated for a large increase and that this has motivated legislators to take another look at Measure 11. It is true, as you cite, that the Governor's proposed general fund budget calls for a large increase (33 percent according to the Legislative Fiscal Office, see reference 2). But what is the contribution of Measure 11 to that increase?

The total projected prison population growth for the 2005-2007 biennium is 962 inmates or 7.2 percent (reference 3). The prison population forecast says that Measure 11 will require 478 additional beds by the end of the biennium (reference 3A). This is roughly one-half of the total prison population growth. Thus Measure 11 accounts for a 3.6 percent increase in total prison population by the end of the next biennium.

A 3.6 percent prison population increase attributed to Measure 11 can not explain a 34 percent increase in the general fund budget. Most of the general fund increase is due to other factors.

>Dissatisfaction with the tough law is nothing new in some camps,
>but lawmakers have never seriously dallied with substantive changes.

As you point out later in the article, the legislature did make a substantive change in 1997 when it passed SB 1049. This created exemptions in certain cases for Robbery II, Assault II and Kidnapping II when the offender has no prior serious convictions. Although the exemptions are narrowly crafted they are fairly often used.

In 2001 the legislature enacted HB 2379 which added additional exemptions for age-related Sex Abuse I and second-degree sex offenses.

>"There is a growing recognition in this building that the faster-than-anticipated
>growth of the prison system is having an impact," said state Rep. Wayne Krieger,
> R-Gold Beach, a former state police officer who now heads the House Judiciary

Some historical perspective is helpful here. 

The growth in prison population since the passage of Measure 11 has been far less than originally anticipated. The fiscal impact statement in the 1994 voters' pamphlet put the "Measure 11 impact" at 6,085 beds by 2001 (reference 4). (The number of additional beds required because of Measure 11 is called the "Measure 11 impact".) As of July, 2001, the actual Measure 11 impact was approximately 2,500 beds (reference 3B), well less than half the original prediction. The current impact estimate goes out to July, 2014 and even then it will not approach the original 6,085 bed estimate presented to voters in 1994 (reference 3A). 

The October, 1995 Prison Population Forecast, which was scaled back from the 1994 estimate, forecast that there would be 18,000 total inmates and that Measure 11 would require 8,655 additional beds by January 2005 (reference 5). The actual numbers are about 13,000 (reference 3) and 3,334 (reference 3A). 

>Violent crime rates are on the decline nationally, which suggests Measure 11
>may be getting more credit than it deserves for Oregon's safer streets, said
>Geoff Sugerman, lobbyist for the Western Prison Project, which supports
>reforming the law.

Geoff may be unaware that, from 1995 through 2002, Oregon had the largest decrease in violent crime rate of all of the 50 states (44% in Oregon, 28% national average - reference 6). We do not claim that Measure 11 was solely responsible for this decrease but we believe it made a substantial contribution. Based on the DAS "Measure 11 impact" estimate in the prison population forecast, Measure 11 is currently responsible for keeping 3,334 violent criminals and serious sex offenders off the street. This incapacitation, the enhanced credibility of the criminal justice system, and the disruption of criminal associations, is where we believe Measure 11's substantial contribution comes from.

>Gov. Ted Kulongoski's proposed general fund budget for the 2005-07 cycle
>calls for a 34 percent jump in Department of Corrections spending to $1.1 billion,
>compared to a 1.7 percent increase for K-12 schools to $5 billion. 

We need to take a closer look at the DOC budget (reference 2) to understand this jump. It says: 

>The General Fund budget is $1,072.4 million, a 33% increase from the 2003-05
>General Fund legislatively approved budget. 

>Much of this increase is due to a fund shift, requiring General Fund in 2005-07
>to backfill the use of one-time federal Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation
>Act of 2003 funding in 2003-05.

>Without this backfill, the increase would have been 18.6%.

In other words, a large part of the increase is not to pay for prison population growth but rather to fill in for federal funding which is no longer in the DOC budget. (Whether it is federal money or state money, it is taxpayer money in both cases.)

Quoting Senator Burdick:

>"Prison beds are the most expensive public safety option we have," she said.
>"Where those beds are necessary to protect public safety, we must use them.
>But if there are ways we can be creative and can move away from prison beds
>without compromising safety, we should."

Oregon already makes copious use of alternatives to prison.

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission's Sentencing Practices analysis (reference 7) for the year 2001, shows (on page 9) that 72 percent of felons convicted in Oregon that year received probation sentences. The report says:

>The non-prison sentences may include sanctions of probation, jail, treatment
>programs, community service, restitution, house arrest, electronic monitoring,
>fines and other types of sanctions.

In addition to the 72 percent of convicted felons who received probation, virtually all people convicted of misdemeanors also received probation. This means that, of all people convicted of crimes in Oregon, only a small percentage go to prison.

>Western Prison Project lobbyist Sugerman said lawmakers are coming to
>grips with the high cost of maintaining a one-strike-and-you're-out law.

The "one-strike-and-you're-out" slogan is calculated to bring to mind California's three-strikes law. However, in California, a burglary or even a theft is a "strike" and "out" means life in prison with a minimum of 25 years. In Measure 11 a "strike" is a serious violent crime or serious sex offense and, aside from the 25-year murder sentence, the longest Measure 11 sentence is 10 years. 

Furthermore, the vast majority of Measure 11 criminals have prior criminal convictions or have multiple convictions on their "first strike". 

[ Geoff Sugerman ]
>"It doesn't recognize that some people who commit crimes will never commit
>crimes again," he said.

Geoff and Western Prison Project do not recognize that, with 3,334 armed robbers, aggravated batterers, kidnappers, child molesters, forcible rapists, drunk drivers who have maimed and killed, and murderers on the street instead of in prison, a LOT of innocent people are going to be SERIOUSLY harmed. We tried in the past to pick and choose which violent criminals were going to reoffend - that was the parole system. The result was that countless paroled criminals robbed, molested, raped and murdered innocent people.

According to our best estimate (and I know of no other entity that has estimated this), in the 2003-2005 biennium, Measure 11 cost Oregon taxpayers $189 million (reference 9). That comes out to about $27 per year for each Oregonian. This pays to keep 3,334 serious violent criminals and serious sex offenders off the street. Of all of the taxes I pay, I think this is the best value for my tax money. I spend over $600/year to insure my car. $27/year is not a lot of money to prevent the victimization of a number of innocent Oregonians. Oregon voters, presented in the voters pamphlet with the cost of Measure 11 both in 1994 and 2000, have agreed by margins of 67 and 74 percent.

This is not to say that Measure 11 is perfect. We do not categorically oppose all modifications to Measure 11. But we do strongly feel that Measure 11 has enhanced the safety of law-abiding Oregonians. It's core principles are sound and should remain intact.

Howard Rodstein
Crime Victims United


1. "Lawmakers may rethink Measure 11", Bend Bulletin, January 23, 2005 

2. Legislative Fiscal Office Analysis of the Governor's Public Safety Budget 

1A. Page 127, paragraph 2:

3. October 2004 Prison Population Forecast 

3A. Table 4, page 4.

3B. See October 2000 Prison Population Forecast, page 3. 

4. Measure 11 Voters Pamphlet 

5. "Oregon Prison Population Forecast", Department of Administrative Services, Office of Economic Analysis, October 2, 1995. This is available in hard copy from DAS/OEA. 

6. CVU chart based on Bureau of Justice Statistics data: 

7. Oregon Criminal Justice Commission Sentencing Practices Analysis

8. CVU chart based on DOC data: 

9. CVU charts based on DAS, DOC and LFO data: 

A series of CVU charts is can be found:

HomeTop | Search