Measure 11 Misconceptions


There are a lot of misconceptions about Measure 11 and related issues.

In a review of 15 anti-Measure 11 letters published by The Oregonian from August 28, 1997 through February 4, 2000, not a single letter mentioned that Measure 11 addresses serious crimes only and several gave the impression that Measure 11 impacts people convicted of nonviolent property and drug offenses and minor altercations.

Here is a sampling of misconceptions from letters sent to The Oregonian:

8/28/1997 (in praise of an editorial that opposed Measure 11)

"The explosive growth in prison populations is due mostly to tough sentencing laws that incarcerate those convicted of victimless and nonviolent crimes."

Misconception: Measure 11 addresses serious, mostly violent crimes. No victimless crimes are covered by Measure 11.


"For simple fist fights, judges now have their hands tied by the law and are forced to put these young, first-time offenders behind bars for a minimum of 5 years, 10 months."

Misconception: A simple fist fight does not fall under Measure 11, unless you count an attack in which someone is seriously injured as a simple fist fight. See the definition of Assault II.

"We have taken the power of discretion away from Oregon judges because of a few isolated case in which mistakes were made and light sentences were given."

Misconception: We took some discretion away from judges because of hundreds of cases in which the sentence did not fit the crime, which caused irrevocable harm, in many cases death, to innocent people.


"The sentencing guidelines adopted by the Legislature in 1989 were working already."

Misconception: The sentencing guidelines, adopted in 1989, did not provide fitting punishment for crimes in which irrevocable harm was done to the victim.

For example, the presumptive sentence for a person convicted of murder with no prior convictions was 10 years. After a virtually automatic two years off for "good time", the effective sentence was 8 years. The fact that the person had no prior convictions does not mitigate the victim's loss of his or her entire life, not to mention the loss suffered by family members. If you are the mother or father of a murdered child, you have lost your child forever. You have also lost your grandchildren and great-grandchildren forever. 8 years for this crime is hardly "working".

Another example is Rape I, a violent rape, for which the presumptive sentencing guidelines sentence is as low as 2 years, 5 months after "good time".


"It mandates that all youths between the ages of 15 and 18 convicted of [any of] 21 separate crimes be treated as adults and receive mandatory lengthy terms of imprisonment."

Misconception: It's 21 serious crimes, not 21 separate crimes.


"Ballot Measure 11 will just continue to cost taxpayers more and more and will continue to hurt innocent people."

Misconception: Violent criminals hurt innocent people. Measure 11 keeps violent criminals where they can't hurt innocent people.


"Just now, the teen-agers first sentenced under Measure 11 are getting out of a prison system where they were not rewarded for good behavior, learned no useful job skills, received minimal or zero drug or mental-health treatment and were most likely brutalized repeatedly."

Misconception: Youth convicted of Measure 11 crimes are sent to the Oregon Youth Authority where they can continue their education, receive extensive counseling and drug rehabilitation, and can participate in job training. If these youth emerge without education, training or counseling, it is because they have decided to do so. Although there are occasional cases in which youth have been abused by their fellow offenders, there is no rampant brutalization in the OYA.

1/12/2000 (Written by an inmate in the Oregon State Correctional Institution)

"Doell, president of Crime Victims United, has an agenda developed to quench his lust for punishment through the pain of others."

Misconception: Steve Doell has sacrificed a good part of his life to spare other innocent Oregonians the horrors and injustice to which he has been subjected.

"It seems to me that if he really wanted to curb crime and drug use in Oregon, he would strive to reintroduce meaningful education in Oregon prisons."

Misconception: Crime Victims United takes no position on drug crimes. We concern ourselves with serious violent crime. We also support giving prisoners an opportunity to better themselves but we do not consider this an alternative to fitting punishment.


"Self-defense is not a legal defense in Oregon."

(Opinion expressed in emails to Crime Victims United)

Misconception: Self-defense is a legal defense in Oregon. Not only can you defend yourself, you can also defend a third-party. See the Oregon Criminal Code, ORS 216.209.


Crime Victims United president Steve Doell spoke at the Portland State Classroom Law Project. He asked the students how many believed that we are spending more money on prisons than education. Well over half said they believed it.

Misconception: The truth is that we spend 57.7% of our state budget on education and 7.1% on corrections. Almost a quarter of the corrections budget goes for non-prison expenditures such as community corrections, parole and probation.


This month the Eugene Register-Guard ran two letters to the editor which stated or implied that Measure 11 requires a 22-year sentence for carjacking and a 30-year sentence for drug manufacture. The Register-Guard then ran a follow-up letter from Howard Rodstein of Crime Victims United. This elicited a letter containing patent nonsense from Wayne Miller who claimed that Measure 11 compels judges to run sentences for multiple charges concurrently.

Misconception: The truth is that, except for the 25-year sentence for murder, the longest sentence required by Measure 11 is 10 years. And Measure 11 does not cover drug manufacture or any other drug crime for that matter. And Measure 11 in no way diminishes a judge's discretion to make sentences consecutive or concurrent.


An article in The Oregonian described the case of James Joseph Michie who hanged himself in the Clackamas County jail after being held on charges of first-degree rape, sexual abuse, sodomy and unlawful sexual penetration. The article said:

If convicted of all charges, he would have faced a minimum sentence of 375 months, under Measure 11 guidelines. 

Misconception: In no case does Measure 11 require a 375 month sentence. The Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentence for first-degree sex crimes is 100 months. Under law (ORS 137.123), a judge can make sentences for multiple counts run consecutive or concurrent. It is common for judges to make Measure 11 sentences consecutive. Thus, the minimum sentence Mr. Michie faced was 100 months. 375 months was the maximum sentence, not the minimum.

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