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Sentencing Reform is Alive and Well February 6, 2015

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , add a comment

Julie Stewart spoke today about sentencing reform

Sentencing reform is alive and well! This week in Congress, identical sentencing reform bills were introduced in the House and Senate that would take a bite out of mandatory minimum sentences! The bills are called The Justice Safety Valve Act of 2015. They would give the court the ability to go below the mandatory minimum sentence when that sentence is clearly excessive for the defendant.

The main sponsors of the bills are Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), and Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Robert Scott (D-VA). In 2012, these four men introduced the same bill, which died at the end of the last Congress. Now, they are the first to introduce a sentencing reform bill in the new Congress, which started January 1, 2015. They are committed to making sentencing laws fairer, stemming the growth of federal prison, and reducing the tax burden of unnecessary incarceration.And we love them for that!

The best way to thank them is to encourage your own Senator and Representative to support the Justice Safety Valve Act. Click here for a helpful email you can send to your Members of Congress.


It’s exciting that sentencing reform is one of the few issues in Congress that has bipartisan support!
We just have to make sure they do more than pay lip service to it! You can help by hounding your members of Congress. Don’t forget – they work for YOU!

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Bill advances that would give a break to some young sex offenders May 9, 2013

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , 1 comment so far

Some young offenders convicted of having sex with underage partners would be able to request the crime be removed from their records under a bill narrowly passed by the Oregon House on Wednesday.

Voting 31 to 27, the House sent the bill to the Senate with little discussion.

Under the bill, in order for adult offenders to apply to have their records erased, coercion or force could not have been used in the sex act. Other conditions include completion of all required court-ordered programs and treatments.

Proponents say the current punishment for such sex offenders does not fit the crime. Opponents say people convicted of sex crimes often reoffend and should not be able to have their records expunged.

“Individuals who commit sex offenses … this isn’t their first time and it won’t be their last,” said Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins, who opposes the bill on behalf of the Oregon District Attorneys Association.

To say an act is consensual when it involves a person who is too young to give consent is indefensible and minimizes the law, Vitolins said.

The age of consent in Oregon is 18.

For offenders to have their records cleared under the proposed law, they could be no more than five years older than the victim, and the victim must be at least 14. For sex crimes committed by a minor, the victim must be at least 12 and the age difference can be no more than three years.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE

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Young Offenders Moving Forward March 15, 2013

Posted by FairSentencing in : Effects of Measure 11 , add a comment

The following this link is an article that a college professor co-wrote with two juvenile lifers:  http://thesocietypages.org/specials/juvenile-lifers-learning-to-lead/

These offenders recognize the severe results of their actions and understand the huge debt they owe society.  Read their story and learn about life through their eyes.  A book is coming out later this year, and the photos in the article are from a Tumblr page that is a project of the professor’s Inside-Out classes.  Trevor helped create it in the Tumblr website in 2011 and then worked quite a bit on the submissions from last quarter.

 

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Oregon commission considers easing Measure 11 sentences to spare more prison construction December 18, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , 6 comments

The state Commission on Public Safety is scheduled to vote this afternoon on a reform package that would roll back prison sentences imposed by voters under Measure 11 and Measure 57.

The change is part of an effort to corral the growing costs of Oregon’s prison system, now costing taxpayers $1.3 billion in general fund in the current budget cycle. State officials say if nothing changes, taxpayers will have to fund add $600 million in the next 10 years to build and operate prisons to house 2,300 more inmates.

The commission is expected to consider removing mandatory sentences for three Measure 11 crimes – first-degree sex abuse, second-degree assault and second-degree robbery.  Voters approved the tougher sentences in 1984.

The commission is being urged to also modify some sentences of Measure 57, targeted at repeat property and drug offenders.

The state’s prosecutors have vigorously fought the changes.  They proposed two of their own that will be considered today – reducing the harshness of marijuana possession and distribution crimes and eliminating prison as a sanction for felony driving while suspended.

Gov. John Kitzhaber is counting on significant reforms to come from the commission. He recently proposed a 2013-2015 state budget that includes no money for new prisons and a flat prison population, currently standing at 14,000.  Corrections Department officials were anticipating opening vacant prisons in Salem and Madras and launching construction of a new prison in Junction City during the next budget cycle.

The governor instead is looking to beef up spending with counties so they can better manage those on probation and parole. He is recommending an extra $32 million for such work, but hasn’t provided details on how the money would be used.  State funding for community corrections work has eroded in recent years.

The Commission on Public Safety also is considering ways to release inmates sooner from prison if they meet certain conditions, such as completing in-prison schooling.

The commission also will considering making the Corrections Department more efficient by driving down the daily cost of an inmate from the current $82.48.

Kitzhaber is likely to support the commission’s recommendations, and then it will be the Legislature’s to chew over the reforms. Any sentencing changes likely wouldn’t take effect until next year and wouldn’t provide any reduction for inmates already convicted of the Measure 11  and Measure 47 crimes.

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Harsh Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Law Example December 11, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Effects of Measure 11 , 1 comment so far

Here is an update from Julie Stewart:

If the case of Chris Williams does not convince you that mandatory minimum sentencing laws are cruel and stupid, nothing will. Williams operated a marijuana dispensary in Montana after voters in that state legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2004. Federal law still prohibits marijuana distribution, however, and Williams and his partners were indicted by the federal government in 2011 on drug charges.  (The states’ rights issue in this case is huge and very important but for the moment not what I want to tell you about.)

Williams wanted to exercise his constitutional right to a trial because he thought Montana’s law protected his activity. But on September 27, a federal jury convicted Williams not only of drug crimes, but also of four counts of possessing firearms “in furtherance of” those crimes. Williams kept legally registered pistols and shotguns at his marijuana operation. He didn’t use them to hurt anyone. In fact, he never even wielded them. He just had them.

Alas, being convicted of just having guns condemned him to the notorious gun “stacking” mandatory minimum: a five-year mandatory prison sentence for the first gun charge and 25 years in prison for each subsequent offense. Even worse, the law requires that the sentences must be served consecutively, one after the other!

As a result, Chris Williams, who was running a state-authorized marijuana dispensary in Montana, will get at least 80 years in prison when he is sentenced in January. (Five years for the first gun + 25 + 25 + 25 for the other three.)  Killers, kidnappers, and rapists don’t get sentences that long, but the judge who sentences Williams will not be allowed to consider that fact. Or any facts, really, because mandatory minimum sentences blindfold judges to the facts and circumstances of a crime and the defendant.

So when people ask you why you support FAMM, you can recite all kinds of very important statistics and facts about how counterproductive and destructive mandatory minimums are.

Or you can answer them with two words: Chris Williams.

And when they learn about this absurd case, they will get it.  And they’ll want to join you in supporting FAMM so we can kill mandatory minimum sentences like the one Chris Williams is likely to receive.

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Help eliminate mandatory sentencing laws December 3, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Moving Forward , add a comment

Here is an update from Julie Stewart, President of FAMM:

Do you like free money? We do, especially when times are tough. Fortunately, FAMM has a chance to make a lot of free money – but we need your help.

From now until the end of the month, every tax-deductible donation you make to FAMM will be matched dollar-for-dollar by another generous donor. If you give us $50, we will get another $50 for free. Give $100 and we get a free $100. Or go big and contribute $5,000 and we will receive an extra $5,000 at no cost!

Free money! What’s not to like?

This matching program lasts only one month so please give what you can today!

FAMM is the only national organization that is focused like a laser beam on eliminating mandatory sentencing laws across the country. We get no government money. We are lucky to receive some funding from supportive grant makers, but we rely for the rest on people like you.

I know you know how important this cause is so I am not going to blab on and on about how unjust, stupid, and wasteful mandatory sentences are. I just want to make sure you remember that – because of the matching program – now is the best time of the year to give!

Donations can be made by check or credit card. We do not recommend sending cash through the mail. Make a secure online donation by clicking here. When making your gift by check, please make your check payable to FAMM and mail it to:

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20005

FAMM loves free money – so I hope I can count on you to give your biggest contribution today!

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Group Raises Awareness For Mandatory Minimum Sentencing For Youth October 31, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , 2 comments

On Saturday morning, about 100 Salem residents banded together at Riverfront Park in a run for justice.  “Steps for Safety and Savings” 5K run/walk was hosted by Partnership for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit that is against Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentencing law Measure 11 for youths under 18 years of age.

Organizer Cassandra Villanueva said volunteers and organizations in 20 states have similar events planned this month in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue involving incarceration of youth in adult courts.

Partnership for Safety and Justice estimated that 250,000 youth are charged, sentenced or incarcerated as adults each year nationwide. Oregon has charged 3,000 since Measure 11 was implemented in 1995.

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Oregon prison puzzle: Cut costs but keep public safe October 29, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , 1 comment so far

For months, 12 Oregonians have been wrestling with the mathematics of justice in Oregon — who’s going to prison, who’s falling off probation, what percentage of new inmates are “low risk” or “nonviolent.”

One number matters most: $600 million.

That’s the estimated cost to taxpayers of continued growth in Oregon’s prison population. Avoiding that means sending fewer people to prison. So how does the state contain costs yet keep citizens safer?

That’s the vexing puzzle that’s been handed to the state Commission on Public Safety. Members face a year-end deadline to offer detailed reforms to Gov. John Kitzhaber. What they come up with could affect everything from Measure 11 to marijuana sentences.

State forecasters say a growing population and tougher sentencing measures will add 2,300 people to Oregon’s inmate count in the next decade. Changing that, the data suggest, will require backing off on sentences, sparing more people from prison, and spending more to keep offenders from committing new crimes.

Commissioners have been tutored on the mind-numbing data of criminal justice.

They’ve learned:

 

 

In short: Oregon’s approach to punishment doesn’t work as well as it could.

“I’m a lock-em-up-and-throw-the-key-away guy, but when you start peeling the onion, that’s not the answer,” said Dick Withnell, a commissioner and Salem auto dealership owner.

With data-crunching behind, commissioners are now framing reforms for Kitzhaber and the 2013 Legislature to consider. But math still will drive the work. Commissioners want a clear sense of how many prison beds would be spared with each change they propose.

“And if by chance we save some money, those dollars have got to stay within the criminal justice arena,” said state Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, a commissioner.

Several commissioners said prison savings and more safety can be achieved by better monitoring felons on probation.

In 2011, judges sent 534 probationers to prison for “technical violations.” Roughly half failed to follow rules such as staying away from drugs. The other half committed new crimes that by themselves wouldn’t net prison time.

Supreme Court Justice Paul DeMuniz, chairman of the commission, said supervising a probationer costs the state $12 a day. Prison costs $85.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE

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Oregon Walks to Get Teens out of Adult Court October 12, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , add a comment

In what organizers say is the first event of its kind in the Pacific northwest, Oregon juvenile justice advocates will hold a 5K run/walk this month to publicize a campaign to channel the state’s 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds toward juvenile court.

“In 2009, my 15-year-old was convicted as an adult,” said April Rains, a board member of the Partnership for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit group that aims to make Oregon’s approach to public safety more effective and just. “I knew that he needed to be held accountable for what he did,” said Rains, a one-time victim advocate. But, “what was shocking was how little support I got for my son and my family. He was a good kid, was involved with church, loved learning, loved taking care of animals. When he was charged with this crime, it was like none of that mattered.”

Her son was charged with sex abuse I and sentenced to 75 months’ incarceration, which he’s now serving. The victim of the inappropriate touching was another family member, “so I was really seeing the situation from all sides,” said Rains, “but I couldn’t get the DAs to listen to what was best for our family.”

Rains wanted her son charged as a youth, first, so he could get treatment while being held accountable. Second, she did not want to see a felony conviction follow him around the rest of his life.

Now 19, her son has completed treatment, gotten a high school diploma and welding certifications and is in his third term of college, all while serving in a juvenile facility.

But there was no way for him to go to a juvenile judge. In 1994, Oregon voters passed Measure 11, which set minimum sentences for several serious criminal charges like robbery and murder. It applies to all defendants aged 15 and older, including indictments in adult court.

A total 975 Oregonians have served or are serving time for M11 crimes committed when they were under 18, according to October, 2012 state statistics. Under certain conditions, they are allowed like Rains’ son to serve time in a youth detention center rather than adult prison.

To help bring attention to family ordeals under Measure 11, Rains is serving as parent lead on the 5K Run/Walk for Youth Justice Awareness Month on Oct. 27 in Salem. YJAM began in October, 2008 in Missouri, founded by a mother whose 16-year-old son was convicted in adult court and committed suicide rather than face 30 years in prison. Events will be held in more than half the states this October.

Every state sets its own laws on the age of criminal responsibility, and many exclude certain serious offenses from juvenile court once the defendant is above about 14 to 17 years of age.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE

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Meet With Your Representatives In Congress October 9, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , add a comment

Update from FAMM:

Congress has left Washington and won’t return to work until after the elections. That means that no federal bills or reforms will be introduced or passed until after the elections on November 6. It also means that, until then, FAMM can’t sit down face-to-face with federal lawmakers and tell them why mandatory sentencing laws must be changed in 2013.

But you can.

Now is the perfect time for you and your loved ones to meet with your representatives in Congress and ask them to support sentencing reform. There are two ways to help while your Members of Congress are at home, in a city near you:

1. Meet with them! Find your Representative and Senators in our Action Center. Then, call or write the office in your area and request a meeting. (Our Citizen Action Kit can help). Ask your representatives to oppose new mandatory minimum sentences and support reforms in the next Congress. Use these helpful tips to have a great meeting.

2. Go to a town hall meeting or campaign event! Many seats in Congress will be decided in the November elections. Current members of Congress and those who are challenging them may be having town hall meetings or campaign events. At these events, ask the candidates how they feel about mandatory minimum sentencing laws. What do they plan to do to ensure that punishments fit the crime and the individual? How will they fix overcrowding in federal prisons and reduce the high costs of long sentences for nonviolent offenders? For pointers, read our factsheet on going to a town hall meeting.

We may be in Washington, but until November 6, your home districts are where the power is. Help FAMM by meeting with your congressional representatives and attending town hall meetings and campaign events. Afterwards, call (202) 822-6700 or send me an email at mgill@famm.org to let me know how it went!

Thank you for all you do for FAMM and fairer sentencing laws!

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