Exchange With Governor Kitzhaber 


Governor Kitzhaber gave his "State of the State" speech at the Portland City Club on January 21, 2000. During the question and answer session, he had an exchange with a City Club member. This exchange illustrates some of the misconceptions and misrepresentations about Measure 11.

City Club Member:

If I remember what I read in the media properly we are either at this time or about to be spending more money on prisons than we are on higher education. Do your education initiatives call for any kind of program to mitigate the impact of Measure 11 in terms of having to build more prison beds, having to devote more resources to it as opposed perhaps looking at alternatives for community corrections or electronic monitoring of nonviolent offenders and so on that might help us get more money shifted away from prisons into the education fund.

Governor Kitzhaber:

There's a couple of things, some we've done, some we're in the progress of doing. When I was elected in '94, I got Measure 11, you got Measure 11 along with me.

We created something called the Community Partnership Act . . . Ted Kulongoski now justice of the Supreme Court, then attorney general, was one of the people that helped us craft this, is with us here today . . . and essentially it takes those felons who were sentenced to less than 12 months, many of whom were getting into the prison system and sort of cycling through and sort of leaving before they ever really got any kind of treatment, and moves those down to the community level where there's a wide range of sanctions, from electronic monitoring to a whole host of other things as well as some treatment dollars. So we are working on that end of it.

The juvenile prevention package that we got through last session really targets both at-risk youth, these kids who are about ready to tip over into a Measure 11 offense, to try to pull them back, as well as front-end dollars for the things like Healthy Start and real primary prevention. We need to do more of that and we need better funding on that end.

Finally, I think Measure 11, I didn't vote for it. I do believe there are certain crimes that are so heinous that those people need to be locked up and the key thrown away. But in that mix of sentences in that measure are some totally unreasonable and disproportionate sentences and I do believe that we need to go in make some responsible modifications to Ballot Measure 11. And we can do that legislatively - we need I believe a two-thirds vote. I believe there's also a ballot measure to repeal it. So there'll be a question on the ballot. And I think the legislature has the opportunity to make some responsible choices within that, with good public debate, that I think would I think significantly reduce the cost and also help out some of the kids.

This exchange is rife with misconceptions.

Nonviolent Offenders?

With a few of very rare exceptions, Measure 11 does not cover nonviolent crimes. It does not cover shoplifting, car theft, burglary or drug dealing. Measure 11 covers only the most serious crimes, such as serious assaults, robberies in which violence is threatened, rapes, manslaughter and murder.

More Money Shifted From Education To Prisons?

In the 1989-1991 budget, education accounted for 46% of total state spending - about 2.2 billion dollars. In the 1999-2001 budget, education accounts for 57% of total state spending - about 6.0 billion dollars. During that time, spending on corrections went from 6.8% (3.2 million) of the budget to 7.2% (760 million).

Prison spending has increased partly because Measure 11 is keeping violent criminals off the streets longer and partly because of a significant growth in population.

Finally, in the 1994 voters' pamphlet, voters were given an estimate of the cost of Measure 11. The actual cost to keep violent offenders off the street has been about half of that estimate.

Community Partnership Act?

Since this act affects people serving sentences of 12 months or less, it has nothing to do with Measure 11. Measure 11 covers only the most serious crimes.

Unreasonable and Disproportionate Sentences?

The vast majority of Measure 11 offenders have received sentences that fit their crimes. There are a small number of cases in which the sentences may be too long. Crime Victims United agrees with Governor Kitzhaber that "some responsible modifications to Ballot Measure 11" should be made. We supported just that in the 1995 legislature, again in 1997 with Senate Bill 1049, and again in the 1999 legislature.

Ballot Measure To Repeal Measure 11?

The referenced ballot measure would not only repeal Measure 11, but would also require that robbers, rapist, and murderers sentenced under Measure 11 be re-sentenced under the previous system. A murderer sentenced to 25 years under Measure 11 could have his sentenced reduced to 10 years (minus two years off for "good time"). This is a far cry from "some responsible modifications to Ballot Measure 11".