Criminal Justice Commissioner Distors Measure 11


In a May 25, 2010 op ed in The Oregonian, Oregon Criminal Justice Commissioner Mike Burton wrote:

Portland police have a new chief, a new commissioner and now a new comic book.
The comic book makes an attempt to explain the severity of Measure 11's "one strike you're out" sentencing guidelines. Inappropriate as it was to mail the comic book to 10-year-olds, the public ought to understand the measure that they passed in 1994.
Measure 11 specifies certain crimes – from murder to second-degree robbery – carry a mandatory sentence.It applies to all defendants over the age of 15, requiring juveniles over 15 charged with these crimes to be tried as adults. The sentencing judge cannot give a lesser sentence than that prescribed by Measure 11, nor can a prisoner's sentence be reduced below the minimum for parole or good behavior.
Prior to 1989, Oregon judges would decide whether a convicted felon should be put on probation or sent to prison, and for those sent to prison, judges could set a maximum sentence, known as an "indeterminate sentence." Based on a subsequent decision by the Oregon Parole Board, the average offender could serve a fraction of the sentence handed down by the judge.
Sentencing guidelines were established in 1989, in an attempt to achieve the following four goals:
–Proportional punishment, imposing the most severe sentences on the most serious offenders.
–Truth in sentencing, so a judge's sentence would more closely reflect actual prison time.
–Sentence uniformity, to reduce disparities among judges.
–Maintenance of correctional capacity consistent with sentencing policy, so the criminal justice system would be able to deliver proposed penalties.
Voter- or legislatively adopted laws such as Measure 11 divert from the original sentencing guidelines and have an effect on Oregon's prison population and thus taxpayer costs. Currently, the number of annual intakes of these offenders is approximately three times what was typical prior to the measure's passage.

Crime Victims United responded with this Oregon Live post:

Mr. Burton's op-ed on Measure 11 left a lot unsaid.
For example, unsaid is the fact that violent crime in Oregon is down nearly 50 percent since the passage of Measure 11 - significantly more than almost all other states over this period. We do not claim that this is solely due to Measure 11 but we believe it had a significant impact.
Or that, according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, increased incarceration since 1995 prevents 100,000 crimes every year.
Or that the cost of Measure 11 is still well below the cost predicted in the 1994 voters pamphlet fiscal impact statement. Measure 11 costs each Oregonian about $35 per year. For this, 4,000 violent criminals and serious sex offenders are in prison and not on our streets. Compare that to what you pay for car insurance or cable television.
Also left unsaid is the fact that, after 15 years of Measure 11, Oregon still ranks just 30th among states in incarceration rate. And that roughly three-quarters of convicted felons receive probation sentences in Oregon.
Also left unsaid is the fact that prior to Measure 11 murderers were routinely sentenced to 10 years in prison and released after 8 years. And large numbers of child molesters received probation sentences.
Despite Mr. Burton's characterization of Measure 11 as a "one-strike-and-your out" law, there are exceptions for all second-degree Measure 11 crimes and for Sex Abuse I. And these exceptions are frequently used. In 2007, according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, roughly 40 percent of adults and 56 percent of juveniles convicted of second-degree Measure 11 crimes were sentenced below the Measure 11 mandatory minimum - many of them receiving probation sentences. And despite Mr. Burton's claim, these sentences were made or approved by judges and the offenders were eligible for earned time.
Measure 11 has achieved its stated goal at a cost considerably below the predicted cost. How many government programs can claim that?
The voters were not as stupid as some politicians make them out to be when they passed Measure 11 by a two-thirds majority in 1994 and upheld it by a three-quarter majority in 2000.

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