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Prisons lock in chunk of budget March 2, 2008

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Oregon spends a bigger percentage of its state budget to lock up criminals and supervise their parole than any other state, according to a new study that examined three decades of prison growth across America.

And if Oregon voters approve one of two tough-on-crime measures on the November ballot, that distinction will become more pronounced.

A study by Pew Center on the States found that for the first time in U.S. history, more than one in 100 adults is in prison or a local jail. The cause: longer criminal sentences that have seen the nation’s prison population nearly triple since 1987 to 1.6 million inmates.

Oregon has seen a faster growth in prison inmates, from about 4,000 to more than 13,500.

The main reason in Oregon: Measure 11, the 1994 initiative that set mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes. It is responsible for 28 percent of today’s prison population.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski said through a spokeswoman that one of the government’s primary responsibilities is to protect its citizens, but prisons should only be part of the answer.

“The governor doesn’t believe that the only way to reduce crime is by just building more prisons,” said Anna Richter Taylor.

The November ballot will give voters a choice in attacking crime and punishment. Both measures increase penalties for drug dealers, burglars, car thieves and identity thieves.

An initiative by Republican activist Kevin Mannix would impose mandatory prison sentences for those crimes and add 4,000 to 6,000 new inmates at a taxpayer cost of $128 million to $200 million a year.

The Oregon Legislature last week sent an alternative measure to the Nov. 4 ballot that targets repeat offenders. It would add about 1,600 new inmates at a cost of $50 million a year. The legislative proposal also includes $20 million a year for drug and alcohol treatment and county jails and parole officers.




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