jump to navigation

Former Prisoner Helping Local Veterans December 18, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , add a comment

Here’s a great feature about a local former prisoner that did his time and is now giving back to the community. There is life after prison…



Truly Fair Sentencing Act

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , 2 comments

Here’s a message from Julie Stuart, FAMM President:

Good news! A bill introduced today would make last summer’s changes to crack cocaine penalties retroactive. H.R. 6548, the Fair Sentencing Clarification Act, would let judges apply the reduced crack penalties in the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) to those who received punitive sentences before the new law took effect.

The sponsor of the bill is House Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott. He championed the passage of the FSA and is championing its retroactivity. By introducing this bill, Rep. Scott is saying to Congress and the Administration that he is not walking away from this important issue and neither should they. Rep. Scott is also sending us a clear message: he stands with FAMM members in the fight to achieve retroactivity!

As important as this development is, please know that we do NOT expect this bill to become law this year. There simply isn’t enough time to get this bill through Congress with so few days left in the term.

But it’s not too late to let your federal representative know that this is a good bill and that they should support retroactivity of the crack bill, this year and next. Please follow this link and contact your Representative to tell him/her that you support H.R. 6548 and want to see the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 become the Truly Fair Sentencing Act by making it retroactive!

We’re not going to rest until Congress applies the new crack law to everyone.


Grant Allows Some SRCI Inmates To Get Associates Degrees December 11, 2010

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

A noncompetitive federal grant is allowing a small group of Snake River Correctional Institution inmates the opportunity to leave the prison with something special when they’ve served their sentences: an associate’s degree.

Eddie Alves, Treasure Valley Community College director of education at SRCI, said the Oregon Department of Corrections is using the funding from the Grants to States for Workplace and Community Transition Training for Incarcerated Individuals program to contract with TVCC to provide courses leading to an Associate Of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree.

The grant has a dual purpose, however, Alves said. In addition to allowing inmates the chance to get an associate’s degree while in prison, it also evaluates the effectiveness of the program by tracking the progress and recidivism rate of the inmates who went through the program once they return to society with inmates who applied but were not selected.

“The whole goal is to prevent further victims,” Alves said. “Although it’s for the inmate, it’s for the community.”

Alves said 15 inmates are currently enrolled in the grant program. They are all within seven years of being released, he said. The grant does not permit inmates with convictions involving children to participate. The inmates take two college courses per quarter with the idea that, at the end of four years, they will receive their associates degree when they are released. TVCC implemented the classes last spring, and so far it has been very successful, Alves said.

Jacob Carter, 23, is an inmate enrolled in the grant program. By the time Carter completes the associates degree program, he will be ready for release from SRCI. Carter, who has a high school diploma, said he always intended to further his education once he got out of prison, and this provides him the chance to get a head start.

“I just think it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m glad to have it.”

Thus far, he and the other inmates have taken speech, nutrition, a basic computer skills class and introduction to writing classes. While he said he is doing very well in the writing classes, his interest is in music, which he may pursue once he gets out.

Another inmate, James Robinson, 29, will also receive his associates degree shortly before he is slated for release, said he has not yet decided what he will pursue once he returns to society and harbors some concerns about his future. He said he really hopes having an associate’s degree will provide more opportunities for him, but he does not know what will be available to him because of his past, which includes assaults and escapes, even with a degree.

“There’s a lot of things I think about,” he said. “I know I’m not wasting my time.”

Alves said Robinson’s concerns are not unusual for inmates, and, in reality, they have less reason to worry than they may think.

Alves said another benefit to the grant is it allows other inmates not selected for the program to take the college level courses as well if they are able to pay for them. Without the courses being taught at SRCI, inmates have no other way to obtain further education because they have no access to computers or the internet that would allow distance learning.

Holden Smith, 22, is one of those inmates able to take the classes because of family support and takes the education he is receiving very seriously, although he has approximately 10 more years to serve at SRCI.

“Right now it means everything to me,” he said. “It keeps me focused. It keeps me in line.”

Smith said he has always loved learning but now appreciates the chance to learn more than he did before he went to prison. He also doesn’t want to let his family down, he said.

He looks at the opportunity as a way to take a bad thing and turn it into a positive one, although he has not thought beyond his day-to-day education. He said the program offers a whole different environment to him than that of general population, one that is positive that provides another focus and keeps him busy.

“That’s another plus,” he said. “Time goes a lot faster.”


Outgoing Gov. Ted Kulongoski Orders Review of Oregon’s Public Safety, Sentencing System December 10, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , add a comment

With a month left in office, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed an executive order Thursday creating a state Commission on Public Safety.

The commission, led by the governor, the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and legislative leaders, will be responsible for reviewing the state’s public safety practices and recommending more flexible sentencing and other reforms.

The idea came from Kulongoski’s Reset Committee, which found that public safety is taking ever-bigger bites out of the state’s budget — from 13 percent of general fund spending in 1989-91 to 16 percent in the current, 2009-2011, budget.

“With limited dollars, we must ensure the public’s safety by making smart investments across our adult and juvenile justice systems,” Kulongoski said during a capitol press conference.

He was quick to add that Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber supports the commission and will include it in his upcoming budget.

It’s too early to say whether the group would recommend elimination of Measure 11, the 1994 initiative that boosted violent crime sentences, Kulongoski said.

Last month voters also approved Measure 73, which mandated longer sentences for repeat drunken drivers and sex offenders.

“You cannot have these measure on the ballot every two years that add more and more costs to the system,” Kulongoski said, pounding the lectern as he spoke.

Kevin Mannix, a chief proponent of both Measures 11 and 73, said he has no problem with a new public safety commission. But the length of sentences isn’t the issue, Mannix said. The issue, he said, is how efficiently prisons and other public safety agencies are run.

The National Institute of Corrections, part of the U.S. Justice Department, lists Oregon’s annual cost per inmate in 2008 as $36,060, compared with the national average of $24,052.

“I don’t want to be mean when someone’s leaving office,” Mannix added, “but where has he been for eight years?”

The executive order directs the commission to outline its findings in a report no later than Dec. 15, 2011.