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Misguided Measures: The Outcomes and Impacts of Measure 11 on Oregon’s Youth July 23, 2011

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The Partnership for Safety and Justice and the Campaign for Youth Justice undertook a comprehensive look at the impact of 15 years of charging youth as adults under Measure 11. You can read the full report, the executive summary and look at county-by-county information on the Misguided Measures section of their website.


Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Second Chance Reauthorization Act July 21, 2011

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Earlier today the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 1231, the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2011, authored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The bill provides resources to state and local governments, as well as community-based organizations, to improve the success rates for people released from prison and jail. The committee reported out the bill on a 10 to 8 party line vote.

The bill extends the original grant program authorized by the Second Chance Act for an additional five years while also improving and consolidating certain provisions. S. 1231 provides planning and implementation support for key reentry grantees; creates an incentive for federal inmates to participate in recidivism reduction programming; and repeals several programs that have not been funded or implemented.

During mark-up, committee members accepted several amendments. These amendments support a study of duplicative programs to ensure that federal dollars are spent in a cost effective manner; promote enhanced accountability measures for grantees by requiring periodic audits; require that nonprofit grantees do not hide money in offshore accounts; and promote transparency around compensation for nonprofit executives.

“There are currently more than two million people in jail or prison in the United States, and more than 13 million people spend some time in jail or prison each year. The Second Chance Act recognizes that most of these people will at some point return to our communities,” said Senator Leahy. “I believe strongly in securing tough and appropriate prison sentences for people who break our laws. But it is also important that we do everything we can to ensure that when these people get out of prison, they reenter our communities as productive members of society.”

Committee approval is only the first step in the legislative process. The Second Chance Reauthorization Act now moves to the full Senate for consideration.


House Appropriations Committee includes $70 million for the Second Chance Act July 15, 2011

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On Wednesday, July 13, 2011, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which provides $70 million for Second Chance Act Programs. The bill, which contains $50.2 billion in total budget authority, provides $1.04 billion for state and local law enforcement programs, including:

Committee approval is only the first step in the appropriations process. The appropriations bills must be passed by both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, as well as the full House and Senate.

For the text of the legislation approved by the Appropriations Committee, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/CJSFY12_SUBC_xml.pdf.

For the accompanying bill report, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/CJS_REPORT.pdf



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Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) met with state corrections heads from around the country in the nation’s capitol today to discuss prisoners returning to communities and recidivism reduction. The corrections leaders lauded Leahy and Portman for the introduction of Second Chance Reauthorization Act, S. 1231.

“When Congress passed the Second Chance Act four years ago, we gave needed resources to the states to help improve reentry programs that have proven, positive results,” said Leahy. “I am grateful for the support of those officials on the front lines in the states, developing these important reentry programs, working to promote public safety while helping offenders return to their communities as productive members of society. I know that later this year, these officers and others from around the country will come together to discuss ways that states can help reduce recidivism to improve public safety. This should be a priority on the federal level as well.”

The Second Chance Act provides critical funding for reentry efforts to learn how to effectively integrate the science of risk reduction into reentry efforts and fill gaps in services, which are critical to success. A recent report by the Pew Center on the States showed that 43% of people coming out of prison nationally return within 3 years making recidivism a significant pressure on criminal justice systems.

“By improving prisoner reentry, we can prevent crime, strengthen communities and save taxpayers’ dollars,” said Portman. “The Second Chance Act is making an important contribution to public safety and reducing costs to taxpayers and it should continue. I hope the Committee will move this important legislation to the floor, and I look forward to working with Senator Leahy and others to pass it in the Senate.”

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director, Gary Mohr, has seen first hand the strains that overcrowded prisons place on the state budgets and communities. “Ohio, like many states, has seen prison spending grow by 21% in less than a decade. That’s faster than most other areas in the state budget and puts enormous pressure on taxpayers to foot the bill.” He added: “The Second Chance Act is one of our best hopes for addressing one significant element of prison growth—the cycle of offenders who recidivate and return to prison.”

A.T. Wall, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections pointed to the elements of the Second Chance Act that states are learning from: “This funding helps to focus our efforts on programs that are proven to work. It is not good enough to have a gut feeling that something will change behavior. Second Chance Act programs are based on evidence-based practice to reduce recidivism, which helps us to know where to make public safety investments that will be the most effective.”

Andrew Pallito, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections was thankful for the introduction of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act: “In Vermont and around the country, we are relying on key leaders here in D.C. to promote and fund programs that help state corrections address the overwhelming challenge of improving prisoner reentry and reducing recidivism. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Leahy and Portman in advancing this important legislation.”


Kulongoski To Take On Sentencing Laws July 11, 2011

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Gov. John Kitzhaber intends to name his predecessor, Ted Kulongoski, as his personal representative on a commission reviewing Oregon’s criminal-sentencing laws.

The commission will be led by Chief Justice Paul De Muniz and have members from all three branches of government, including the Legislature.

The commission actually was proposed by Kulongoski in his final “reset” report, recommending steps to revamp state government, that Kulongoski issued a month before he left the governorship Jan. 10.

It will mark another attempt by Kitzhaber to persuade lawmakers to adopt his proposed public-safety changes. Unlike his policy initiatives for education and health care, they mostly were turned aside during the 2011 session.

“One thing that became clear (in the budget process) is that we are really shackled from the constitutional and statutory standpoint,” Kitzhaber said last week at a meeting with the Statesman Journal editorial board.

Kitzhaber’s budget assumed a continued suspension of 2008’s Measure 57, which increased prison time for some repeat property and drug offenders. It also assumed a version of “earned time,” which would have shortened the prison stays of some violent offenders serving mandatory sentences under a 1994 ballot initiative that voters approved as Measure 11.

But both actions would have required two-thirds majorities in the Legislature, because of a constitutional change also approved by voters in 1994. Lawmakers instead reworked the Department of Corrections budget to add back money to offset the presumed savings.

Measure 57 will take effect when the current suspension ends Jan. 1, 2012.

Lawmakers did continue for two more years a 60-day limit on holding probation violators; that limit does not apply to new crimes. They also modified Measure 73, which voters approved in 2010 to require 90-day jailings — paid by the state — for third-time convicted drunken drivers. The measure could have required those drivers to serve 13-month prison terms.

State prisons now house about 14,000 inmates, more than double the total before Measure 11 took effect in April 1995. The two-year, $1.36-billion budget for the Department of Corrections accounts for about 9 percent of the state’s discretionary spending. According to a February report by the Legislative Fiscal Office, it’s almost double the share it had in the mid-1980s, before lawmakers made it a separate department in 1987.

According to May 1 figures by the department, slightly more than 40 percent of inmates are housed for Measure 11 crimes. Slightly less than half are eligible for release within the next 24 months, nearly three-quarters have some problems with alcohol and drugs, and half require or could benefit from mental health treatment.

Lawmakers restored $12 million that Kitzhaber’s budget cut for such programs, and added $1 million for grants to counties for re-entry programs for newly released inmates.

Kitzhaber’s budget also assumed that lawmakers would agree to a ballot measure shifting support of Oregon State Police patrols from the tax-supported general fund to the highway fund, where it was before voters changed it in 1980. But voters rejected previous attempts in 1992 and 2000, and lawmakers signaled early they were unwilling to make a third try against opposition from highway contractors.

“We have fewer patrol troopers now than we did in the 1980s,” Kitzhaber said.

“With a significant increase in population, it is a logical place for the patrol function of the state police — not the whole department — to be in the highway fund, where it used to be. It is not going to devastate our ability to maintain our highways. I am going to continue to look for some way to provide stable funding for state police.”


Sheriff Cuts 84 Jail Beds July 8, 2011

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Lane County Sheriff Tom Turner on Thursday announced that he will immediately close 84 beds in the Lane County Jail, saying the move illustrates the severity of the county’s fiscal predicament.

But his decision surprised members of the Lane County Board of Commissioners, some of whom criticized Turner for failing to consult the board or the public.

Facing the need to save $3.2 million in public safety costs for the fiscal year that began Friday, Turner held a news conference in the sheriff’s office to announce a series of cuts and impacts that include:

Eliminating 52 positions, including deputies necessary to operate and supervise an 84-bed dormitory housing unit in the jail, and 27 positions for food and medical service to inmates.

Loss of 24-hour coverage.

An inability to respond to “any but the most serious property and financial crimes.”

More instances where citizens will “self-report” crimes by filling out a form, including most property crimes.

With 321 beds remaining in the jail after the cut, the sheriff’s office will respond to situations that pose a threat to personal safety; “felony grade” crimes; and situations where a response is required by law, including some domestic violence incidents, the victimization of children and Measure 11 crimes, a reference to crimes for which Oregon voters have adopted mandatory minimum sentences, Turner said.

“While the sheriff’s office will always respond to emergencies and 911 calls, there may be times when a responding deputy has to be called out from home, as opposed to being on patrol,” Turner said.

The county board cut $7.8 million from the general fund for the 2011-12 fiscal year, including $3.8 million that is to be saved primarily through a combination of workforce-wide wage and benefit reductions and furloughs.

But Turner described as “pie in the sky” the plan to quickly win union concessions in compensation and said coming up with his department’s share of the necessary savings left him with no choice but to cut the jail beds. The bed closures will save his department $700,000 in the fiscal year that started July 1.

Board of Commissioners chairman Faye Stewart said the closure of the jail beds has been a distinct possibility but that he was “a little surprised” Turner made the cut without officially notifying the board. Stewart said he doesn’t know whether the action can be reversed but that he hopes during a board meeting on Tuesday to discuss with Turner whether other cuts would be a better option.

Commissioners Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson were more critical.

“I’m not OK with it at all,” Handy said. “I look forward to us meeting as a board and getting a briefing on this and making sure everyone has the same information.”

Former Sheriff Russ Burger closed 84 jail beds in 2008 because of an unexpected drop in federal inmates and the federal money to house them. The county board reopened them a year later, but only after months of fierce, community-wide debate over spending money on public safety vs. saving money to maintain county government’s long-term fiscal stability.

Sorenson made a passionate argument against immediately restoring the jail beds at that time, saying the county faced an “unparalleled” economic crisis. But he ultimately joined in the board’s unanimous decision to reopen the jail beds after what he called an extensive period of hearings and public comment.

On Thursday, Sorenson said the issue of jail-bed closures merits board review.

“I think this is a pretty big community issue, and I think it needs to undergo some discussion and consideration,” Sorenson said. “I don’t think it should be made by one person.”

The county is in contact with its seven unions on concessions in wages and benefits but officials have said that even under a best-case scenario it will take time to persuade the groups to accept changes. In the meantime, employees could be required to start taking furloughs — periodic unpaid days off — in August.

Turner said he’s not going to get concessions from the union for sheriff’s deputies and that the deeper into the fiscal year he goes with the current level of services, the more he’ll have to cut later.

Commissioner Jay Bozievich, who said he supports Turner’s move, noted that the 24-hour nature of law enforcement makes furloughs unrealistic, leaving only the option of layoffs and closure of jail beds.

Les Sieczkowski, union president of the Lane County Peace Officers Association, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday evening.

The closure of the 84-bed unit will reduce capacity in the jail by 20 percent, which means another 750 offenders will join the thousands who are released early each year, Turner said.

“These releases may include offenders defined by statute as violent, and possibly a small number of Measure 11 offenders,” Turner said. Measure 11 offenses include murder, assault, manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, robbery, sexual abuse, arson and more.

District Attorney Alex Gardner said in an e-mail Thursday that many criminal defendants already choose to skip court dates in Lane County and that closure of the jail beds could exacerbate the problem.

“If the court orders have no teeth, offenders feel free to disregard them — and they do,” Gardner wrote. “We routinely see defendants who have been arrested four or five times on the same felony charge.”

The sheriff’s office also will cut three positions for parole and probation officers and two support staff, which means that the department will no longer be able to accept for supervision most people convicted of misdemeanor crimes.

While the department will continue to supervise people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, Turner said in a press statement, “the status of almost 200 other offenders currently on misdemeanor probation has not yet been determined.”

“It seems unlikely that we will be in a position to continue their supervision as originally planned by the courts,” Turner said.

Bozievich said he wants to revisit earlier proposals for reductions instead of the jail bed closure. That list of cuts could include elimination of two positions in the District Attorney’s Office, funding to Health and Human Services and the Pathways program for juvenile offenders, for a savings of more than $1 million.

Turner said the ultimate solution for his department is voter approval of a tax levy or taxing district that will pay for fundamental public safety services — and nothing else. The bleakness of the current financial picture might be enough to sway the public, he added.

“I like the plainness of this,” Turner said. “There just isn’t any money.”