jump to navigation

Measure 11 Mandatory Minimum Sentences Editorials November 17, 2009

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

The Oregonian editorial board is right that the Supreme Court’s decision, which blocks Measure 11 sentences as too severe in rare cases, is only a “faint crack” in Measure 11’s blunt tool, (“A blunt instrument delivers a shock,” Sept. 26). But we’re not going to solve this problem by searching for the proper relationship “between the severity of the penalty, the gravity of the offense and the criminal record of the defendant.”

As Chief Justice Paul De Muniz said in his dissent, he and many judges “prefer a more enlightened scheme that would permit courts to sentence an offender in accordance with evidence-based practices that, in each case, are more likely to reduce offender recidivism and further community safety than does a mandatory minimum sentencing scheme.” He cited an article he authored with Missouri Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff.

Getting proportionality right — making punishment “fit the crime” — is by far the easiest part of sentencing, but it is nowhere near enough. To earn back the sentencing discretion taken from us by ballot measures, we judges need to show that we’re good at the hard part — using evidence and the discretion we still have to select the sentence that works best to prevent the offender’s next crime, and to serve any other purposes actually at stake in a given sentencing such as the interests of a victim or the need to reinforce social values.

Marcus is a Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge.

I find it delightfully ironic that right across the page from an editorial explaining that the Oregon Supreme Court decision barely scratches Measure 11, I see a letter to the editor explaining that the law has been “softened” somehow. Richard Muller (letter, “Measure 11 finally softened,” Sept. 26) seems wholly ignorant of how we got Measure 11.

Far from being a “dirty trick,” it constituted the visceral reaction to occasions when a misguided judge perhaps felt bad for a defendant and released him with a slap on the wrist. Yes, it was harsh and yes, it was robotic, but giving the people the right to take a stand against injustice is what our initiative process is all about.

Voters freely chose to handcuff judges — to prevent them from releasing dangerous criminals — and it is hardly one man’s “dirty trick.”


I appreciate The Oregonian’s excellent editorial about the stupidity of Measure 11. However, anyone could ask, what is the thinking behind such politics?

My guess is that an answer may include our Victorian heritage, our record of hypocrisy and our ubiquitous materialism. We are scared silly that our stuff, usually unneeded and bought to impress others, will be ripped off.

We also have some unreasonable laws because of the efforts of our fellow Americans who are simply intolerant. In a shameful state that spends more on prisons than on higher education, may you continue to persuade us that it is time to rethink Measure 11, which apparently does more damage than good.

BOB GEARY Northwest Portland

Hooray for the state Supreme Court ruling against the mandatory sentences approved by Measure 11. This was a bad measure competing against a worse measure, and it should be abolished. The term “judge” is defined as “an official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law.”

Yet Kevin Mannix and his colleagues apparently think that this decision process should be their private preserve, established by mandatory sentencing.

Check out California, where the California Correctional Officers Association drives the political process to incarcerate more people with longer sentences — with mandatory sentencing — to build and fund more prisons. California corrections is a case of the tail wagging the dog. California is nearing bankruptcy, in part, because of this corruption of sentencing policy and because of the disproportion of budgetary power that has devolved to these self-interested, self-involved “law-enforcement” groups. Mannix, et al., attempted to promote the same outcome for Oregon.




no comments yet - be the first?