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Outgoing Gov. Ted Kulongoski Orders Review of Oregon’s Public Safety, Sentencing System December 10, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

With a month left in office, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed an executive order Thursday creating a state Commission on Public Safety.

The commission, led by the governor, the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and legislative leaders, will be responsible for reviewing the state’s public safety practices and recommending more flexible sentencing and other reforms.

The idea came from Kulongoski’s Reset Committee, which found that public safety is taking ever-bigger bites out of the state’s budget — from 13 percent of general fund spending in 1989-91 to 16 percent in the current, 2009-2011, budget.

“With limited dollars, we must ensure the public’s safety by making smart investments across our adult and juvenile justice systems,” Kulongoski said during a capitol press conference.

He was quick to add that Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber supports the commission and will include it in his upcoming budget.

It’s too early to say whether the group would recommend elimination of Measure 11, the 1994 initiative that boosted violent crime sentences, Kulongoski said.

Last month voters also approved Measure 73, which mandated longer sentences for repeat drunken drivers and sex offenders.

“You cannot have these measure on the ballot every two years that add more and more costs to the system,” Kulongoski said, pounding the lectern as he spoke.

Kevin Mannix, a chief proponent of both Measures 11 and 73, said he has no problem with a new public safety commission. But the length of sentences isn’t the issue, Mannix said. The issue, he said, is how efficiently prisons and other public safety agencies are run.

The National Institute of Corrections, part of the U.S. Justice Department, lists Oregon’s annual cost per inmate in 2008 as $36,060, compared with the national average of $24,052.

“I don’t want to be mean when someone’s leaving office,” Mannix added, “but where has he been for eight years?”

The executive order directs the commission to outline its findings in a report no later than Dec. 15, 2011.



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