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Oregon commission considers easing Measure 11 sentences to spare more prison construction December 18, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , 12 comments

The state Commission on Public Safety is scheduled to vote this afternoon on a reform package that would roll back prison sentences imposed by voters under Measure 11 and Measure 57.

The change is part of an effort to corral the growing costs of Oregon’s prison system, now costing taxpayers $1.3 billion in general fund in the current budget cycle. State officials say if nothing changes, taxpayers will have to fund add $600 million in the next 10 years to build and operate prisons to house 2,300 more inmates.

The commission is expected to consider removing mandatory sentences for three Measure 11 crimes – first-degree sex abuse, second-degree assault and second-degree robbery.  Voters approved the tougher sentences in 1984.

The commission is being urged to also modify some sentences of Measure 57, targeted at repeat property and drug offenders.

The state’s prosecutors have vigorously fought the changes.  They proposed two of their own that will be considered today – reducing the harshness of marijuana possession and distribution crimes and eliminating prison as a sanction for felony driving while suspended.

Gov. John Kitzhaber is counting on significant reforms to come from the commission. He recently proposed a 2013-2015 state budget that includes no money for new prisons and a flat prison population, currently standing at 14,000.  Corrections Department officials were anticipating opening vacant prisons in Salem and Madras and launching construction of a new prison in Junction City during the next budget cycle.

The governor instead is looking to beef up spending with counties so they can better manage those on probation and parole. He is recommending an extra $32 million for such work, but hasn’t provided details on how the money would be used.  State funding for community corrections work has eroded in recent years.

The Commission on Public Safety also is considering ways to release inmates sooner from prison if they meet certain conditions, such as completing in-prison schooling.

The commission also will considering making the Corrections Department more efficient by driving down the daily cost of an inmate from the current $82.48.

Kitzhaber is likely to support the commission’s recommendations, and then it will be the Legislature’s to chew over the reforms. Any sentencing changes likely wouldn’t take effect until next year and wouldn’t provide any reduction for inmates already convicted of the Measure 11  and Measure 47 crimes.

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Harsh Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Law Example December 11, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Effects of Measure 11 , 1 comment so far

Here is an update from Julie Stewart:

If the case of Chris Williams does not convince you that mandatory minimum sentencing laws are cruel and stupid, nothing will. Williams operated a marijuana dispensary in Montana after voters in that state legalized the medical use of marijuana in 2004. Federal law still prohibits marijuana distribution, however, and Williams and his partners were indicted by the federal government in 2011 on drug charges.  (The states’ rights issue in this case is huge and very important but for the moment not what I want to tell you about.)

Williams wanted to exercise his constitutional right to a trial because he thought Montana’s law protected his activity. But on September 27, a federal jury convicted Williams not only of drug crimes, but also of four counts of possessing firearms “in furtherance of” those crimes. Williams kept legally registered pistols and shotguns at his marijuana operation. He didn’t use them to hurt anyone. In fact, he never even wielded them. He just had them.

Alas, being convicted of just having guns condemned him to the notorious gun “stacking” mandatory minimum: a five-year mandatory prison sentence for the first gun charge and 25 years in prison for each subsequent offense. Even worse, the law requires that the sentences must be served consecutively, one after the other!

As a result, Chris Williams, who was running a state-authorized marijuana dispensary in Montana, will get at least 80 years in prison when he is sentenced in January. (Five years for the first gun + 25 + 25 + 25 for the other three.)  Killers, kidnappers, and rapists don’t get sentences that long, but the judge who sentences Williams will not be allowed to consider that fact. Or any facts, really, because mandatory minimum sentences blindfold judges to the facts and circumstances of a crime and the defendant.

So when people ask you why you support FAMM, you can recite all kinds of very important statistics and facts about how counterproductive and destructive mandatory minimums are.

Or you can answer them with two words: Chris Williams.

And when they learn about this absurd case, they will get it.  And they’ll want to join you in supporting FAMM so we can kill mandatory minimum sentences like the one Chris Williams is likely to receive.

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Help eliminate mandatory sentencing laws December 3, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Moving Forward , 1 comment so far

Here is an update from Julie Stewart, President of FAMM:

Do you like free money? We do, especially when times are tough. Fortunately, FAMM has a chance to make a lot of free money – but we need your help.

From now until the end of the month, every tax-deductible donation you make to FAMM will be matched dollar-for-dollar by another generous donor. If you give us $50, we will get another $50 for free. Give $100 and we get a free $100. Or go big and contribute $5,000 and we will receive an extra $5,000 at no cost!

Free money! What’s not to like?

This matching program lasts only one month so please give what you can today!

FAMM is the only national organization that is focused like a laser beam on eliminating mandatory sentencing laws across the country. We get no government money. We are lucky to receive some funding from supportive grant makers, but we rely for the rest on people like you.

I know you know how important this cause is so I am not going to blab on and on about how unjust, stupid, and wasteful mandatory sentences are. I just want to make sure you remember that – because of the matching program – now is the best time of the year to give!

Donations can be made by check or credit card. We do not recommend sending cash through the mail. Make a secure online donation by clicking here. When making your gift by check, please make your check payable to FAMM and mail it to:

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20005

FAMM loves free money – so I hope I can count on you to give your biggest contribution today!

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