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Making the Most of Second Chances Conference Website Released March 31, 2011

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Hundreds of reentry practitioners from across the country recently convened in Washington, D.C., for a three-day conference, Making the Most of Second Chances. Now materials from the February 23-25 conference—including videos, PowerPoint presentations, and handouts from workshops and plenary speakers—are available for free download on the conference website.

Sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, Making the Most of Second Chances connected recipients of federal funding under the Second Chance Act with national reentry experts. Individuals from state and local governments, community and faith-based organizations, and federally recognized Indian tribes participated in meetings with experts in the fields of housing, employment, mental health and substance abuse treatment, community supervision, and other areas important to people transitioning from prison, jail and juvenile facilities to the community.

Presenters focused on cutting-edge practices in the field of re-entry, such as assessing an individual’s risk for committing future crimes, designing data-driven programs, and effectively allocating limited resources.

To visit the conference website, click here.


Another Measure 11 Editorial March 23, 2011

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Tactic of filing multiple criminal charges threatens all citizens

On the March 13 Commentary page, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger offers a strong defense against criticism by columnist Jack Roberts. As is usual, each side is claiming facts not easily before the readers. I will choose to believe Kroger until proved otherwise.

However, Kroger seems to defend the tactic of heaping multiple charges on the accused in order to coerce a plea to lesser charges. This tactic, in vogue throughout Oregon, renders the fact of guilt or innocence meaningless, because even the innocent, when charged with multiple crimes that would lead to years of incarceration, will take a plea. The power of the government, in all cases, is immense, and to allow the tactic of exaggerating the charges is to put us all in jeopardy.

The application of justice is supposed to be the same for all, poor, the middle class and rich, but we know that this is not the case and only the rich have the resources to fight using the best legal defense.

I understand, also, that there is no concept of mercy built into the law by intentional design, but mercy can enter into the system, although, too frequently it does not. Mercy can be expressed by a prosecuting attorney understanding the accused and the context of the crime when filing charges. Mercy can also be extended by the judge at sentencing if given the flexibility, but laws like Measure 11 tie their hands.

And in all cases, the principle intent is not the protection of the public but the winning of the case. For many lawyers, their career is more important than justice. The ideals and ethics of our system must be re-established or we are all in danger of being the “prize” or “sacrifice” in a contest to support the careers of lawyers and judges.

Burton Levin


Measure 11 Editorial March 22, 2011

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Measure 11
Seriously, folks, can we please, with an open mind and devoid of fear, take a minute to look at the facts in regard to Measure 11? I’m not speaking to you as a politician or representative of some special-interest group. I’m speaking as a deeply concerned citizen who happens to be a survivor of several Measure 11 crimes.

I’m adamantly against Measure 11 in its current form. It’s bankrupting our state without achieving its intended goal. Will I feel any safer in another three years when my offender is released back into my community? Absolutely not. Why? Because the cost of Measure 11 has robbed us of any opportunity to treat either the person or the problem, and we will be no safer than we were the day I nearly lost my life.



Flooding The Sentencing Commission With Letters March 15, 2011

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Update from FAMM

Keep those letters coming! You have done a great job flooding the U.S. Sentencing Commission with letters telling them to make the crack guideline retroactive and reduce all drug sentences by two levels. If you haven’t sent a letter, you can find a sample letter here: LETTER.  If you have sent a letter, ask all your family and friends to write. The Commission needs to hear from as many people as possible by March 21 and we need all the help we can get to get the word out!

There are a lot of exciting things happening this week:

• FAMM Vice President Mary Price will testify before the U.S. Sentencing Commission on Thursday, March 17.  She will tell the commissioners to make the crack guideline retroactive and lower all drug sentences.  For more about the hearing logistics, follow this link: http://www.ussc.gov/

• FAMM will tweet the Sentencing Commission hearing live! Be sure to follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/fammfoundation

• FAMM will post a summary of the hearing on our Website: www.famm.org

Please keep sending in those letters and join us by Twitter, Facebook or on our Website as we tell the Commission to do the right thing and make sentences fairer for thousands of people. Thank you for standing up with us – and rest assured that FAMM will be standing up for you at the Commission hearing!


Report On Oregon’s Measure 11 Incites Fierce Debate March 12, 2011

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A political firestorm has erupted over whether Measure 11 is working, pitting prosecutors against defense attorneys, victim advocates against victim advocates. The state Criminal Justice Commission ignited the arguments with a report that concludes the measure, passed by voters in 1994, hasn’t worked as intended. The final report was issued Friday, though a draft has circulated for weeks.

The commission found, for example, that one effect of Measure 11 has been to shift power to prosecutors, who use the threat of a mandatory sentence to win plea deals on lesser crimes.

“There is a reason the Founding Fathers created an independent judiciary,” said Darryl Larson, a retired judge who chairs the commission. “You have a magistrate who decides who to believe, what to believe and what to do about it. With Measure 11, you have largely done away with that system.”

Proponents of Measure 11, however, attacked the report as politically motivated.

The report was slanted to “push a political agenda, which is anti-Measure 11, anti-incarceration, anti-law enforcement and anti-victims,” said Steve Doell of Crime Victims United.

The renewed debate comes as legislators, looking to save money amid the state budget crisis, face several proposals to change state sentencing laws. Gov. John Kitzhaber is seeking to again defer tougher sentences for repeat property offenders, and legislation is pending to stall Measure 73, which would increase sentences for some sex offenders and drunken drivers.

There’s no question Measure 11 has had a profound effect on Oregon’s criminal justice system. By setting mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain offenses, the measure has been a significant factor in pushing the state’s prison population from about 3,100 in 1980 to about 14,000 in 2010, according to a February analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Office. The commission’s report found that the state prison system would need 2,900 fewer beds had the measure not taken effect.

But while proponents credit the measure with imprisoning violent criminals and driving down crime, critics say it has overloaded state prisons, robbing money from education.

The Criminal Justice Commission, crunching 15 years of data, found fewer people than expected faced Measure 11 charges, though those who are convicted under the measure more often go to prison and serve long sentences.

Researchers compared their findings against assertions made in 1994 by Kevin Mannix, chief petitioner for Measure 11, and concluded that the certainty in sentencing promised by Mannix hasn’t happened.

“The predictable sentence is only arrived at in the minority of the cases where a prosecutor, not a judge, decided it was appropriate and necessary,” the report said. “In only 28 percent of the cases indicted did Measure 11 accomplish the goal of assuring the judge imposed the sentence the chief petitioner claimed was the minimum necessary.”

Prosecutors instead are offering plea bargains for lesser crimes, the report said, resulting in an unexpected shift in power to prosecutors in Oregon’s 36 counties.

That shift troubles Larson, the commission chairman, and organizations such as the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Partnership for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit victims’ and defendants’ advocate.

Larson worries that prosecutors “can drive people to take deals that are in reality not justice,” he said.

Rob Raschio, an attorney in The Dalles and president of the Defense Lawyers Association, said Measure 11 is a “big hammer” for prosecutors.

“The judiciary in many ways has been made a rubber stamp,” Raschio said. “We believe discretion on sentencing belongs to the judge, not one of the advocates in the process.”

David Rogers, executive director of the Partnership, said increased use of plea agreements “means that the majority of cases are getting resolved in back rooms, not in courts.”

District attorneys agree power has shifted but say that started with state sentencing guidelines crafted five years before Measure 11 was approved.

“The power has always been with the DA,” said Alex Gardner, Lane County district attorney speaking for the Oregon District Attorneys Association. He said it’s no surprise prosecutors are striking more plea deals; they said during the Measure 11 campaign that would happen.

Gardner said Measure 11 has succeeded in ensuring that more violent criminals serve longer prison sentences. He called the report overly critical.

“Measure 11 has been an effective tool for prosecutors trying to protect the community,” he said.

Doug Harcleroad, a former Lane County district attorney now advising Mannix’s Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, said there is “no question” power has shifted to prosecutors. “In a perfect world, you would want a well-informed judge to listen to all sides and make a decision about what should happen.”

He said prosecutors are best informed, though, about all elements of a case. He also said the report overstated the impact of plea bargains, and understated the “positive results” from Measure 11.

The district attorneys association wrote the state commission that the report “appears to be a document with a tone of advocacy, staking out a negative stance relative to Measure 11 based on opinions and assumptions.”

The report does not recommend changes to Measure 11, but Doell, the victims’ advocate, said it sets the stage for critics to use the state’s financial stress as a reason to seek modifications.

Rogers said the study was long overdue.

“Measure 11 has dramatically changed the nature of Oregon’s criminal justice system. It has cost the state billions of dollars,” he said. “It’s time to judge whether it delivers or whether something needs to be modified and reformed.”


Oregon House Unanimously Votes To End Faith Healing Exception March 11, 2011

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The Oregon House approved a bill Thursday that would remove legal protection for parents who choose faith healing over medical intervention when treating their children.

The bill passed unanimously, though two Republican representatives raised concerns that the legislation was taking the issue away from juries and sending the state down a slippery slope.

The legislation comes in response to an Oregon City church, the Followers of Christ, that has a long history of child deaths even though the conditions from which the children died were medically treatable.

Currently, spiritual treatment can be used as a defense against all homicide charges. The bill would eliminate that defense and subject parents who chose faith healing over medical treatment at the expense of their child’s life to mandatory sentencing under Measure 11.

“In the past two years alone, two children have died and another had been severely disfigured due to lack of medical care,” said Democratic Rep. Carolyn Tomei, one of the bill’s sponsors. “These children suffered needlessly. Their deaths were avoidable.”

The bill has gained the support of several groups, including the Christian Science Church, and passed through legislative committee with unanimous support.

During the floor vote, two Republicans raised concerns about the bill. Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, asked Tomei whether parents had ever been found not guilty as a result of the special defense. Tomei explained that in the most recent cases, grand juries have opted to charge the parents with other crimes to avoid the faith healing defense.

McLean, however, appeared undeterred.

“Oregon juries are quite capable of deciding,” he said. “We are taking this issue away from juries and grand juries.”

Rep. Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill, said he worried “we might be heading down a slippery slope.” He said he prayed earlier in the day about his son’s severe tonsillitis. His wife took his son to the doctor Thursday morning, he added, but “am I going to go to prison because I took the time to pray with my child?”

Both Republicans voted for the bill but pledged to seek amendments when the legislation passes through the Senate.

Tomei addressed the concerns in her closing remarks.

“Colleagues, this bill is not written … to send anyone to prison,” she said. “Our hope is that we’re sending a certain group of people a message that it’s against the law if their child is in grave danger … to not give them medical care.”



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The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice, recently released the solicitation for the OJJDP FY11 Second Chance Act Juvenile Mentoring Initiative. Funding under this solicitation is available to help state and local government agencies, federally recognized Indian tribes, public universities and colleges, and nonprofit organizations provide mentoring and transitional services to juveniles returning from correctional facilities.

Click here to download the solicitation.

Click here to download a list of related Frequently Asked Questions.

The deadline for applications is May 2, 2011.

Inquiries about the solicitation should be directed to OJJDP’s Justice Information Center at (877) 927-5657 or via e-mail to JIC@telesishq.com.

The Department of Justice has also made available grants for adult mentoring services. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) recently released a solicitation for mentoring grants targeting adults returning from correctional facilities. Applications responding to this BJA solicitation are due on April 21, 2011. Click here to download the grant announcement.

Click here to learn more about the Second Chance Act.


Valuable Resource March 7, 2011

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Here’s a reminder that this website is an excellent resource to get information regarding cases and opinions:  http://sentencing.typepad.com/


Bill Would Remove Statute Of Limitations In Oregon For Sex Crimes Against Minors March 5, 2011

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Part of the public fury that grew over former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt’s admission that he sexually abused an underage girl was that he could not be prosecuted for the crime — the statute of limitations had expired long ago.

Now Oregon lawmakers are considering a change that would eliminate the time limit on when someone accused of abuse or assault of a minor could be prosecuted.

“I just think there is no rationale that we deny children the ability to seek justice later on in life,” says Rep. Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, who is pushing the proposed change in the law.

The proposal, contained in House Bill 3057, gets its first public hearing Monday and will likely generate a fight pitting prosecutors against defense attorneys. Some district attorneys say young sexual assault victims need extra protection. Defense lawyers say the change would make it far more difficult for people to make the case that they’ve been wrongly accused.

Oregon has a six-year statute of limitations on most sex crimes. However, the law allows a longer time period if the victim is under 18. In that case, the crime can be prosecuted any time before the victim turns 30, or within 12 years after the crime is reported to police or the Department of Human Services.

But even those extended time periods aren’t always enough, says John Foote, Clackamas County district attorney.

“Child abuse is a lifelong event,” he says. “It stays with people their whole lives. Sometimes society ends up paying for it. Sometimes the victim does.”

The bill offers one more layer of protection if abusers understand they could be prosecuted long after the crime, Foote says. “When you’re in the work we’re in, protecting children, you realize these kids need all the protection they can get because the effects are so devastating.”

Innocent defendants need protection, too, says Gail Meyer, lobbyist for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Completely removing an already lengthy statute of limitations stacks the deck against them, she says.

In criminal cases, as opposed to civil ones, the defense has no right to depose witnesses, Meyer says. Most of the crimes fall under Measure 11’s mandatory sentencing guidelines and it takes a 10-2 jury verdict to convict.

“Add that to a delayed report of 20, 30, 40 years, it’s just too much,” she says. “It just spells a disaster for justice.”

Goldschmidt offers the most high-profile case in Oregon of a crime that went unreported until it was too late to prosecute. In May 2004, the former governor and Nike executive confessed that he had sex with an underage girl when he was Portland mayor in the 1980s. He kept the crime secret for years, in part by making payments to the victim as part of a court settlement.

Despite the criminal nature of his abuse, Goldschmidt faced no chance of prosecution. The bill Hunt is pushing would apply to offenses that occurred before or after the law’s effective date, but would not allow prosecutors to open old cases.

Goldschmidt has since disappeared from public life, but community outrage hasn’t let up. It flared again over reports of the recent death of his victim, and a story in The Oregonian in which the victim gave several interviews to former columnist Margie Boule that offered grim details of her abuse by Goldschmidt.

Hunt says the Goldschmidt case is far from the sole reason he introduced the bill. It’s as much about reports of abuse within the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts as it is about Goldschmidt, he says.

Hunt’s wife, Tonia Hunt, is executive director of the Children’s Center of Clackamas County, which works with young abuse victims. As a result, he says, he hears stories on a daily basis about the terrible things that some adults do to minors.

“We want victims to come forward, whether they’re still children or whether they’re adults,” Hunt says. “Ultimately, they’re not going to heal or move on until justice has been promised and achieved.”