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Costs Frame Crime-Measure Debate October 24, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Dueling views on crime and punishment surfaced Friday in Salem when two former Oregon lawmakers debated a statewide ballot measure that would toughen punishment for repeat sex offenders and drunken drivers.

At issue in the Salem City Club debate was Measure 73, the latest get-tough-on-crime initiative sponsored by Kevin Mannix, a former Salem legislator and GOP gubernatorial candidate.

On the Nov. 2 ballot, Measure 73 would increase to 25 years the minimum term for repeat offenders of four sex crimes: first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration and using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct.

The measure also would impose a 90-day jail or prison term for a third conviction for drunken driving.

Speaking in support of the measure, Mannix called it necessary to protect the public from the “worst of the worst” sexual predators and from repeat intoxicated drivers who “pose a menace to our society” and “get a free ride in this state.”

Arguing against Mannix’s measure, Dallas attorney Lane Shetterly described it as “poorly crafted,” too costly and a continuation of “business as usual” in Oregon.

Shetterly, who served four terms as a state representative in the Legislature, said the state can’t afford Measure 73. He cited a potential $3 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming 2011-13 budget period, which begins July 1, and a projected decade-long stretch of deficits.

“It spends money we don’t have,” Shetterly said.

He noted that Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley and Democratic rival John Kitzhaber both are against Measure 73. They agree that the state cannot afford its price tag.

Mannix downplayed the costs linked to locking up more sexual predators and drunken drivers. He said the highest cost estimate prepared by the state for the measure says that one-fifth of 1 percent of the general fund would be required to cover the sentences imposed by Measure 73. And even that level of cost, about $29 million per biennium, wouldn’t be reached until five years from now.

Mannix’s debate remarks included many positive references to the public safety benefits derived from Measure 11, a 1994 ballot measure he sponsored that imposed mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes.

Oregon saw a sharp reduction in violent crime from 1995-2005, a period in which the state went from having the eighth-worst violent crime rate in the United States to the 10th-best, he said.

The state’s prison population has doubled to more than 14,000 inmates since Measure 11 took effect, but the boom in the inmate population proved to be far less than originally predicted.

Shetterly acknowledged that Measure 11 boosted public safety and produced “a positive net return.”

But he said the state needs to dramatically change its stance on crime and punishment to deal with grim budget realities.

“Business as usual in Oregon is a thing of the past,” Shetterly said.

Instead of locking up more offenders for longer sentences, he said, the state needs to explore less costly alternatives, ranging from home detention for certain offenders to expanded drug-treatment and crime-prevention programs aimed at keeping people from committing crimes.

“We need to be more creative,” Shetterly said.



1. Donna Traw - November 21, 2010

I can’t believe how much the state WASTES on Measure 11 sentences on people that could be put on probation or house arrest! So many of these are NOT violet criminals, just sent away to make DA and cops look good for number of “criminals” in prison. When the real criminals get less time and off with good behavior. But they keep the cops, DA and Judges in jobs and the public scared so they will pass these waste of money bills. All this money could be going to schools to educate our future generations and social and health programs. But from what we have found out since our son was sent away for 75 months for witnessing an accident that the DA was going to “set an example” for speed racing-Veneta Jan 2010-when 2 young men were going home after work and 1 was in a tragic accident! That’s all if was even had lots of proof but never got our day in court. This was a big sham that Lane County “justice system” should be very ashamed of!!! Another score for DA, another waste of money to the taxpayers!!!