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Legislature Approves Some of Governor Kitzhaber’s Prison Reform Bill


House Bill 3194 started out as an ambitious plan to modify Measure 11 and to end the mandatory prosecution of juveniles in adult court.  Unfortunately, none of the changes to Measure 11 survived during the amendment process.

Significant changes were made in the way some crimes are punished and in the process in which prison inmates are released back into the community.

HB 3194 removes marijuana and hashish from the sentencing enhancements for manufacturing or delivering “substantial quantities” or in the course of a “commercial drug offense.”  As a result, the seriousness of these crimes for the purposes of Oregon’s sentencing guidelines is dramatically reduced.  It will be very difficult for a person to be sent to prison for a marijuana manufacturing or delivery crime, regardless of quantity.  This was good news for Oregon Drug Crimes Lawyers.

HB 3194 also lowers the crime seriousness of Felony Driving While Suspended, as long as the underlying suspension did not result from a vehicular homicide.  In addition, Robbery in the Third Degree and Identity Theft have been removed from the minimum sentence provisions of the Repeat Property Offender’s Act.

HB 3194 also makes some positive changes in formulating release plans and supervising inmates when they are released from prison.  In the past, some prison inmates were eligible to request “transitional leave,” where an inmate would be released early at the end of a prison sentence and live in a structured environment while they find work and a place to live.  Now the Department of Corrections is required to formulate transitional leave plans for eligible inmates.

The Bill also gives a sentencing judge the authority to order that a person be released to a “re-entry court” upon their release from prison. A re-entry court would have the authority to set conditions of supervision, monitor the former inmate and impose jail sanctions for violations of supervision conditions.  This change allows a re-entry court judge, rather that the Parole Board, to supervise and monitor released inmates.

HB 3194 also requires the Department of Corrections to use scientific tools to determine the risks and needs of released inmates.  These “Risk/Needs” tools are very effective in identifying underlying problems, such as drug dependence, and other destabilizing factors that lead former prison inmates to re-offend.  Also, the Department of Corrections is required to track outcomes and determine what strategies and programs actually work in reducing recidivism.

As a Portland, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer, I support these changes in sentencing rules and in the manner in which inmates are released.  The assistance in reintegrating released inmates into the community should be particularly effective in keeping people from returning to prison and keeping track of “what works” is just common sense.

By James F. O’Rourke Jr.

The post Legislature Approves Some of Governor Kitzhaber’s Prison Reform Bill appeared first on JFO Law.

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