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Crime Initiatives May Take Money From Education May 27, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

State reserve money that could have gone to education will likely go to state prisons and, according to some, support of crime initiatives is holding taxpayer money hostage.

Like every other state agency, Oregon’s Department of Corrections has been ordered by the governor to cut 9 percent of its budget, a total of $50 million.

“We have a bit of a box we’re in that is very difficult to manage,” said Max Williams, the director of the Department of Corrections.

Williams said voter-passed initiatives will keep him from making enough cuts.

“But I don’t believe we can get to the $50 million target without bumping into some amount of those restrictions that are on the system,” he said.

Those restrictions come from voter-approved initiatives Measure 11, the state’s minimum sentencing law; Measure 57, which keeps repeat property offenders in jail longer; Article 1, Section 44 is a voter-passed law that requires a judge’s sentence to be carried out, and numerous federal mandates, including inmate health care.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Tuesday said the Legislature will have to use state reserve funds to keep Oregon’s prison system compliant with the law.

“The choices they have are too severe. They can’t release people,” he said.

Gaelen McAllister with Stand for Children said it’s a shame that state reserve money will go to prisons instead of classrooms.

“To say prisoners are protected and children aren’t, it’s just ridiculous,” she said. “Those things always sound good at the ballot box. Of course we want to lock up prisoners. Of course we want to have mandatory sentences, but people really don’t realize what the fiscal implications are.”

“I do think sometimes it’s easy to vote for something and not fully understand the financial context of it,” Williams said.

Education advocates said they are also concerned about the amount of money Oregon spends on prisons versus students. Per year the state spends three times more money housing an inmate than it does educating a student in the classroom.



1. Martha Cnossen - May 29, 2010

Truly none of us that voted for Measure 11 knew the full impact. Never did I know that it ould impact us so deeply and personally.