Governor Kitzhaber and others are proposing the first significant changes to Measure 11 in over a decade. The Governor’s concern is driven mainly by projected prison costs over the next ten years and the likely need to build and staff more prisons if changes are not made to this 1995 law.
House Bill 3194 proposes a number of modifications.
First, the bill would completely eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for persons convicted of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, Assault in the Second Degree and Robbery in the Second Degree. Persons convicted of these crimes would be sentenced under the existing sentencing guidelines and the length of a prison term would be based on a person’s prior record.
Second, the bill would end mandatory adult prosecution of 15, 16, and 17 year olds who are charged with Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, Assault in the Second Degree and Robbery in the Second Degree. Currently, juveniles accused of these crimes are automatically transferred to adult court. Ordinarily, a juvenile is entitled to a hearing in juvenile court and could contest being remanded to adult court. If passed, this bill would restore that process for juveniles accused of these crimes.
Third, juveniles who are sentenced under Measure 11 would automatically be eligible for “Second Look,” which allows juveniles to have a judge review their sentences when they have completed one half to three quarters of their sentence. If a juvenile has demonstrated good institutional behavior and has made progress with programs, the court has the authority to release the juvenile conditionally and allow them to complete their sentence on probation.
These changes are being opposed by many District Attorneys. Several District Attorneys believe that the projected expenses for the Department of Corrections over the next ten years are overstated. The supporters of House Bill 3194 believe that leaving Measure 11 unchanged will require the construction of at least one new prison and require hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending. The supporters of HB 3194 believe that the changes would allow the Department of Corrections to reduce its budget by five percent over the next ten years, rather than increase the budget.
Changing Measure 11 will be a real challenge, since any modifications of Measure 11 must be approved by a two thirds majority of both the House and the Senate.
As an Oregon Criminal Defense Attorney who represents persons charged with Measure 11 crimes, I support the changes proposed in House Bill 3194.