The Oregon Legislature failed to enact Governor Kitzhaber’s proposed changes to Measure 11 in the last legislative session. Governor Kitzhaber proposed enacting a way for minors to argue their way into Juvenile Court in Measure 11 cases and exempting some lower level crimes from Measure 11 for juveniles and adults. District Attorney’s across the state resisted these changes. Changes to Measure 11 require a two thirds majority (in both the House and the Senate) to pass in into law. Any significant resistance by District Attorneys and law enforcement doom the proposed changes to failure.
As a Portland Measure 11 lawyer, I believe there are other possible changes to the law that make sense. I believe that the primary problem is that Measure 11 is “cookie cutter justice” which does not account for the individual circumstances of the offense or the offender. These sentences must be served day for day and they provide no incentive for people to engage in rehabilitative programming that is available in the Department of Corrections. The truth is that the Department of Corrections has excellent drug treatment and cognitive based programs that can provide great benefits to inmates that choose to engage in the programs. The people at DOC who run these programs are highly motivated, professional and proud of their work. These programs work in preventing recidivism. In addition, inmates serving a day for day Measure 11 sentence have no incentive to cooperate with staff during their incarceration because there is nothing they can do to shorten their sentence. This creates institutional management problems.
There is one modest change that would solve this problem. That is to allow Measure 11 offenders to earn the right to sentence reduction for good institutional behavior and meaningful participation and progress in rehabilitative programs. One way to implement this would be to allow Measure 11 offenders to petition their sentencing Judge, after 12 to 24 months of incarceration, to modify their sentence to allow good time (a ten percent sentence reduction for good behavior), earned time (a ten percent sentence reduction for working in prison and/or participating in programs) and Alternative Incarceration Programs (drug treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy programs). This would give an incentive for Measure 11 Offenders to engage in the programming that will help prevent them from returning to prison!
This approach would change the “one size fits all” problems with Measure 11. We should encourage all prison inmates to address the underlying problems that landed them in prison in the first place. These rehabilitative and treatment programs work. As a Portland Criminal Defense lawyer I have seen hundreds of my clients change their lives by addressing the problems that get them into trouble of the law in the first place.
By James F. O’Rourke Jr.
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