Too often, the US has relied on a strategy of warehousing and mandatory minimums instead of more cost-effective approaches for nonviolent offenders. Although Oregon had been recognized as a national leader in community corrections during much of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the state began to drift away from this approach, as a greater share of funding began going to prisons instead of probation and law enforcement. Indeed, Oregon saw a whopping 47% increase in their prison population from 2000.

The 18% increase in the incarceration rate inspired the creation of a Commission on Public Safety which made consensus recommendations, most of which were ultimately adopted by the legislative leaders of both parties who crafted House Bill 3194. This bill was signed into law in July 2013.

The Commission’s reports demonstrated that in 2011 and 2012 there had been a jump in the proportion of low-risk drug offenders present in the prison population and therefore endorsed greater flexibility in dealing with convicts. Although a plurality of convicts are still granted probation, the percentage sent to prison has increased from 22% to 26% since 2000.

The reforms in HB3194, which are projected to save the state a projected $600 million over the next decade, include reworking mandatory minimums for certain types of drug offenses, as well as driving with a suspended license. In 2011, driving without a license was the fifth most prevalent commitment offense for offenders sent to state prison in Oregon, which HB3194 addresses by adding this offense to the presumptive probation list, though such offenders could still be sent to prison if there is a danger to public safety or if they fail to comply with probation.

Additionally, counties are given a fiscal incentive by the state to strengthen community corrections strategies, such as drug courts and electronic monitoring, in order to reduce both recidivism and excessive prison terms for low-level nonviolent offenders. The bill is projected to result in savings of $17 million in the first biennium due to diminished prison costs and even more costs will be averted since new prisons will no longer need to be built. The bill reallocates $4 million of that in the coming biennium to strengthen services for crime victims. Total ten year projected savings from HB3194 are $326 million. Other prison savings are redirected to strengthen community corrections and law enforcement, including restoring 24-hour police response in some counties where it had been curtailed in the wake of the 2008 recession.

The bill also provides an earned time component that provides a positive incentive for probationers to be compliant and succeed in holding a job and fulfilling all obligations, including victim restitution. Furthermore, it adjusts Measure 57 by repealing mandatory minimums for certain low-level drug offenses. Finally, the legislation extends the period of supervision following a prison term from 30 to 90 days for most offenders, which will ensure greater accountability as inmates reenter society. This reflects the research showing 30 days is too short to provide meaningful supervision and structure and thereby reduce recidivism among reentering inmates.

Although it took a lot of work to develop and advance HB 3194, the new changes will simultaneously contain costs and preserve public safety by implementing many of the Commission on Public Safety’s recommendations. Ultimately, this legislation will better ensure prison space is prioritized for violent and dangerous offenders at the same time many nonviolent offenders who are not dangerous are more effectively held accountable in the community.


Right on Crime Encouraged by Passage of Criminal Justice Reforms in Oregon

Right on Crime | July 2, 2013
Salem, OR (July 1, 2013)–Oregon’s State Legislature passed a wide-ranging criminal justice bill implementing reforms proven to improve public safety while saving taxpayer dollars. HB 3194 makes use of…

New infographic shows Oregon needs reform

Right on Crime | May 22, 2013
Find out why Oregon’s criminal justice system needs to be reformed! Read more

Radio ads running in Oregon

Right on Crime | May 14, 2013
Our Right on Crime radio ads are live in Oregon! You can listen to them by clicking the links below:    

David Keene op-ed in Salem Statesman-Journal

Right on Crime | May 13, 2013
In an op-ed published in today’s Statesman Journal,  Right on Crime signatory and NRA president David Keene urges conservatives to examine whether taxpayers are getting the most from the money…

Grover Norquist on Michael Medved radio show

Right on Crime | May 9, 2013
Here is a partial transcript from a recent Michael Medved radio show, where he interviewed signatory Grover Norquist about our work on criminal justice reform. They discussed the conservative…

Signatory Grover Norquist on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown

Right on Crime | April 30, 2013
Check out the video of Right on Crime signatory Grover Norquist on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd. Mr. Norquist does a great job explaining why conservatives are…

Audio: GA Rep. Jay Neal Sentencing Reform Testimony in OR

Right on Crime | April 19, 2013
Georgia Representative Jay Neal testified in Salem,OR in favor of sentencing reforms.  To listen to the audio, click the link below: Bill Meyer Show Podcast The Bill Meyer Show…

Grover Norquist on Oregon’s Corrections Debate

Right on Crime | April 19, 2013
Reducing crime needn’t mean building bigger prisons By Grover Norquist Published: November 21, 2012, www.bendbulletin.com As a taxpayer advocate, I was troubled to learn that Oregon’s growing prison population…

New Cascade Policy Institute paper on criminal justice reform in Oregon

Right on Crime | April 3, 2013
Check out the brand new paper released by the Cascade Policy Institute in Oregon. It’s entitled, “Protecting Public Safety and Reducing Correctional Costs in Oregon.” Here is an excerpt:…

Good article on mandatory minimums

Right on Crime | April 2, 2013
Check out this article from an activist in Arizona about mandatory minimums. The writer makes some good points and mentions the Right on Crime campaign! It is for this…

The Conservative Case Against More Prisons

Right on Crime | March 18, 2013
Our policy experts Vikrant Reddy and Marc Levin wrote an excellent piece recently for The American Conservative magazine. It’s entitled, “The Conservative Case Against More Prisons” and appeared in…

Georgia State Rep. Jay Neal on Oregon talk radio

Right on Crime | March 18, 2013
Listen to Georgia State Rep. Jay Neal discuss criminal justice reform in Georgia on the Bill Meyer radio show in Oregon. He makes a solid case for reforming the…
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