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How gullible will we be for Mannix? September 22, 2007

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Here’s a letter to the editor in the Daily Astorian that rightfully warns about Measure 50. This measure will continue the horror and unintended consequences that began with Measure 11. Judges must be allowed to rule on a case by case basis, not some blanket verdict that’s required to be handed to everyone.

Prison time – not quality education – has become Oregonians’ only birthright

If an even-numbered year is approaching and Kevin Mannix is short on money, there must be a ballot measure coming. Sure enough, Mannix is promoting a knock-off of his successful Measure 11. His new initiative would mandate prison time for burglars, car thieves, identity thieves and low-level drug dealers.

Measure 11, enacted in 1994, caused Oregon to double its prison space over 12 years. The operational budget that goes into running those new prisons has caused corrections to become a ever larger share of state spending.

During the period that Measure 11 kicked in, public schools across Oregon cut programs and the number of teachers, counselors and librarians. Arts curriculum and school bands bit the dust in many districts. Even athletics programs were curtailed. Oregon also disinvested in higher education during that same decade.

You see, prison, not quality education became Oregonians’ only birthright.

Mannix promotes these crime measures because they are easy to sell. If a politician can’t demagogue crime, he can’t demagogue anything.

The inconvenient question is: “At what cost?” That’s a question that Republicans who call themselves fiscal conservatives used to ask. Here’s the answer. Mr. Mannix’ latest concoction will crowd out other things this state must accomplish.


Oregon’s booming business: Producing prison inmates September 21, 2007

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Oregon just opened its 14th prison and officials are already wondering about capacity. How many more will Oregon need in the coming years?

This month’s opening of the $190 million Deer Ridge Correctional Institution east of Madras was supposed to mark the end of a boom that has seen the state double its number of prison beds in 12 years. The unknown now is what the need will be if the anti-crime measure, that may appear on the November 2008 ballot, will be.

Kevin Mannix, former state lawmaker and repeat Republican candidate for governor who sponsored Measure 11, is currently busy with his latest prison-sentencing measure. If passed, it will set fixed prison terms for certain violent crimes, with no parole or probation possible. It will also set mandatory sentences for burglars, car thieves, identity thieves and some drug dealers of which most now get probation rather than prison sentences.

Sufficient prison space won’t be waiting if Mannix’s latest measure passes. It could also double Oregon’s inmate population from 3,000 to 6,000 inmates and cost the taxpayers as much as $400 million every two years and that amount is just for openers. Incidentally, as far as our answer to anti-social activity is concerned, the U.S. locks up six times as many citizens per capita as England, seventeen times as many as Japan. In fact, prisons and jails in the U.S. now hold nearly two million people which means up to one out of every one hundred and forty residents is behind bars. And we end up looking worse and worse as the years pass and we keep locking people up in ever-increasing numbers.

Mannix suggests that instead of traditional prisons, officials who deal with lawbreakers build work camps or come up with other creative ways to retain and control low-risk offenders. Mannix has also said, “This requires prison officials to break the mold” or, as the hackneyed expression goes, think outside the box. But he doesn’t offer any ideas that are new; after all, work camps go back a long way and haven’t, it would appear, turned that proverbial corner on prevention or repeat offenders any more than traditional prisons.

One county district attorney, Clackamas’ John Foote, is reported to have spoken for himself and other prosecutors when he commented that they want to see how the Legislature responds, if it does respond to this matter, when it meets in February. Foote has also said that “We know from citizens and victims that property crime remains a real concern in our communities and probably needs to be addressed.”

But the current Legislature is not known as a place full of new ideas or ways of handling problems; its members typically can do no more than act as partisans and demonstrate how well grown men and women can haggle with one another. Those members interested in trying truly effective new directions seem always run off by a majority that’s afraid it won’t be re-elected if something proposed will cost any money while the statesmen among them seem to be as rare as modern-day bountiful salmon runs.

One matter that bothers me a lot is where are these people who commit all these crimes coming from? Are they mainly Oregonians from birth or are they mostly from out of state or out of country? Is it simply a mixed bag of offenders from all over the place? Are they mainly persons of color? When they are from out of state or out of country are there barriers to sending them back to where they came from or can we once and for all, especially with those who come here from other countries not to work but to rob, rape and peddle illicit drugs, send them back to where they’ve come and make certain a return will result in immediate deportation and placement on an active watch list?

Most important of all, however, regarding inmates whose origin is Oregon, why aren’t we as a state of many responsible citizens, putting more money, time and effort into getting help to these people when they first appear troubled or about to get in trouble. That is, when they’re children or adolescents. If we used our smarts we’d make certain to secure relationships with their families, where they grow up in a family setting or with guardians, whomever is in charge of their youth years, so the person or persons in charge can establish and maintain preventative measures rather than application of curative attempts by the society-at-large that’s now tried or incarceration efforts that so often result in recidivism or repeat offenders. The end result of what’s now done via the Mannix approach is simple to create career criminals with long rap sheets.

This country has things so terribly backwards. Family unit members, mainly those who are willing to acquire positive guidance skills and behave like responsible adults, must be trained and assisted to keep their children from lives of crime that far too often include sentences in prison. This means that school and college preparation for work and employment become important to every family and we make certain they function so as to develop productive, contributing, successful adults, not ones who know only how to get into trouble by breaking the law because they’ve not been properly directed, often supervising their own growing up without adult supervision.

When are we going to wise up? Kevin Mannix is always coming forward with another measure whose purpose is to incarcerate people. That’s a mentality and outlook that apparently represents all he knows how to do. He appears the modern-day standard bearer of Old Testament treatment and outdated methods. If we’d place considerable effort into raising responsible people we wouldn’t need the likes of a guy with his one-dimensional way to deal with people: throw them in prison or get “creative” in undefined ways and just punish them as long and as hard as possible in some sort of work camp setting, surrounded by barbed wire and impacted by negative influences. Well, we know what we get from that approach and it would seem that we would have learned something by now as should have the whole nation.

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Oregon CURE Annual Meeting September 20, 2007

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The Oregon CURE Annual Meeting will be held on:

Sunday, October 14, 2007 3 pm to 4:30 pm

Hillsdale Community Church, 6948 SW Capitol Highway, Portland, Oregon 97219

Guest speaker: Dr. Rachel Hardesty

It is extremely important for families and friends of Oregon’s 13,500 prisoners to know that there are people on the outside who care and are working towards Restorative Justice. It’s very important to attend, and please invite others including those in support groups. A firsthand account to your loved one about the happenings of the meeting will be a great topic for your next visit!

Invited are a sizable group of DOC staff and it is good for them to see family members who have a vested interest in the safe, healthy, and productive return of the people in their care.

There will be a raffle table – tickets are $2.00 each or 3 for $5.00 – and there will be some intriguing gift baskets and items to raffle off! This is a primary method of funding the CURE organization in Oregon, so it’s a very significant event.

CURE is a wonderful organization of very caring families and friends of prisoners that periodically meet to help provide support and information. The name stands for Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants and a link to their website can be found HERE.


Former Chief Judge Speaks Out Against Mandatory Minimum Sentences September 12, 2007

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Someone in a forum that I’m a member of mentioned reading an article about 28 states repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws. So far, no one has been able to find any factual evidence. I did a simple Internet search, and found an interesting document written by Patricia Wald, retired Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Her testimony was on behalf of the American Bar Association and presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last year.

The subject was the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing in the criminal justice system of the United States of America. She sited an ABA commission to investigate the state of sentencing and corrections in the United States that was established in about 2004. Their report to the Annual Meeting that year called upon states, territories, and the federal government to repeal mandatory minimum sentence statutes.

Mandatory minimum sentences bring a number of problems. In order to have basic fairness, due process, and the rule of law, criminal sentencing must be fair between similar offender situations and proportional to the crime. Mandatory minimum sentences violate these two basic provisions.

She goes on to mention that mandatory minimums result in excessively harsh sentences, lead to arbitrary sentences, create disparities that standards were designed to eliminate, and undermine judicial discretion.

Here is the link to read the entire report: testimony


Governor of Michigan Addresses High Rate of Incarceration September 10, 2007

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I found it very interesting this morning that Jennifer Granholm, Governor of Michigan, was on the Morning Call show on CNBC and mentioned that Michigan lawmakers enacted tougher laws that have escalated the incarceration rate of her state much higher than the national average. The program was specifically addressing the current economy of local areas.

The Michigan Governor went on to say that she is looking into initiating changes in the laws to bring down the incarceration rate and thereby reducing the strain on the budget from the prison system.

Good news that at least one Governor is starting to wise up and take corrective steps to stop the growing prison over-population. Getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences would be the best solution.