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States Establish Reentry Councils to Oversee Initiatives, Promote Interagency Collaboration August 31, 2007

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Several states recently established councils that will study, promote, and help carry out effective reentry policies. Drawing their membership from various government entities, as well as community-based organizations, these councils evaluate reentry practices, make recommendations for improvements to policies, and guide the implementation of responses to people released from prisons and jails. The goal of these councils is to address the factors that contribute to high rates of recidivism, thereby increasing public safety and reducing corrections spending.

In May 2007, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski issued an executive order establishing the Governor’s Re-Entry Council, a 19-member group composed of leaders from corrections, law enforcement, and social services agencies, as well as community-based organizations. The council is charged with reviewing Oregon’s existing reentry policies, making specific recommendations for improvements to these policies, and coordinating new initiatives across the state. According to a recent press release from the governor’s office, one-third of the people released from prison in Oregon are convicted of a new felony within three years of their release. The new Re-Entry Council is committed to lowering this rate and increasing public safety through collaborative, statewide efforts to promote individuals’ safe and successful transitions from prisons or jails to the community.

Several other states passed legislation to the same effect during their most recent session:

These new councils and advisory groups follow examples set by other states, such as Kansas. Last year, as part of its Offender Risk Reduction and Reentry plan, Kansas established a Reentry Policy Council that includes key cabinet secretaries and legislative officials. The council promotes collaboration among state agencies to provide wide-ranging services including employment training, housing assistance, and substance abuse treatment; advocates for effective reentry policy; and develops neighborhood-based strategies to reduce recidivism. Recently, the council created a steering committee of deputy managers which holds biweekly meetings to discuss various reentry issues in depth, identify key issues to address, and establish specific task forces when needed. To read more about Kansas’s reentry initiatives and recent legislation, see the May 24, 2007 and July 27, 2007 issues of this newsletter.

For more information about developing effective reentry policies and promoting interagency collaboration to address the needs of people who are released from prisons and jails, see Part I of the Report of the Re-Entry Policy Council.


Reminder About Sentencing Law and Policy Resource August 22, 2007

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One of our most helpful members suggested that I remind people of a great resource for sentencing law and policy. It really has a lot of valuable information. Please check it out.

Sentencing law and policy


Take Action against Electronic Weapons in Prison August 7, 2007

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The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) wants to use 50,000 volts of electricity as a weapon against people in prison. The DOC is proposing a change in its rules that includes in its security equipment list guns that shoot darts connected to electrical wires that can repeatedly deliver 50,000 volts of electricity into a person’s body. The electronic weapons, known by the brand name of Taser or Nova Spirit, are most commonly used in police departments, but they are increasingly being used in jails and prisons as a way of gaining compliance from prisoners.

Click here to read the proposed changes to the Department of Corrections Use of Force rules.


The Department of Corrections currently uses electronic shields and has an older model of an electronic gun in its arsenal. The newer electronic projectile weapons are much more likely to hit their targets than older models, and they’ve proven themselves to be deadly weapons. More than 220 people have died after being shot with electronic weapons.

Click here to read Amnesty International’s 2006 report about electronic weapons.


The Oregon Department of Corrections should not use these weapons, which they call electronic control devices, on incarcerated people. The use of electronic weapons by the police is intended to replace deadly force, and this is very controversial because people have died after being hit by the weapons. But under the DOC’s proposed rules, and in practice in other prisons and jails in the US, electronic weapons are a part of a list of devices used to force prisoners to comply with orders. There are documented cases in which electronic weapons in prisons and jails have been used on people with mental illnesses and people in handcuffs. In one jail, the weapon was used at least thirty times in seven months.

Action Needed:

Tell the Department of Corrections that these disturbing and potentially deadly weapons should not be used on people confined in prison. When you click the “act now” button, you will find a sample email message to Max Williams, Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, and Ms. Birdie Worley, DOC Rules Coordinator.

Deadline for responding: The deadline for comments on the proposed rules change is August 25.