House Bill 3194 made some important changes to the manner in which some crimes are punished. The most significant changes were to the manner in which prison inmates are released.
In the past, too many prison inmates were released into the community without sufficient support or supervision and without using modern tools to determine exactly what their needs are so they can remain crime free. The result is that these former inmates had a greater risk for committing new crimes and returning to prison at the expense of the taxpayer. Below are some smart changes to the manner in which inmates are released which address some of these problems.
Most Portland criminal defense lawyers do not pay much attention to what happens to their clients during or after incarceration. We at James F. O’Rourke, Jr. and Associates work hard to get out clients who have to go to prison placed in the best facilities with the best programming to suit their individual needs. We also work hard to help our clients get the help they need so that they do not reoffend. We are very happy with the HB 3194 changes.
For many years the Department of Corrections has allowed some inmates convicted of non-violent crimes to ask to be released on “transitional leave” for the last 90 days of their sentence. The inmate had to put together a plan and have it approved by the Department of Corrections. These plans could include residential drug treatment or residence at supervised transitional leave centers. During this time inmates could look for work and find a place to live. During this time an inmate could also get connected with programs that are required as a condition of supervision. Now, under HB 3194, the Department of Corrections is required to identify all transitional leave eligible inmates and help them formulate 30 day transitional leave programs. This will greatly increase the number of inmates who will receive transitional leave programming.
The Department of Corrections uses a tool called the Level of Services-Case Management Inventory (LS-CMI) to help identify a person’s specific needs (every criminal attorney should understand how this tool works and its limitations). The LS-CMI takes an inventory of a person’s risks and needs over all personal domains. The scales used include: criminal history; education/employment; leisure/recreation; family/marital; companions; alcohol/drug problems; anti-social patterns; and pro-criminal attitude/orientation. By measuring a persons risks in each of these areas, a parole officer can formulate a plan for helpful programming and can measure a persons progress in these areas. HB 3194 now requires that a risk/needs assessment be done as a part of a person’s supervision. This is a smart plan. Research shows that programs are effective in preventing recidivism and that programs are much less expensive than incarceration.
One of the most interesting plans in HB 3194 is the establishment of “Re-Entry Courts.” This is a brand new idea that makes great sense. Currently, when a judge sentences a person to prison they are sent to the Department of Corrections and the judge loses all authority to monitor and supervise the person when they are released. When an inmate is released they are placed on “Post-Prison Supervision” and supervised by a parole officer. If the person violates parole, the Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision determines the penalty for the misconduct. This system is over-burdened. Parole officers and the Parole Board work very hard, but they have too many people to supervise. Under HB 3194 a circuit court judge can order a person to participate in a Re-Entry Court upon release from prison. After release, the judge has the authority to set and enforce supervision conditions, as well as monitor a person after release. This adds an extra level of support and monitoring after release from prison.
As a Portland Criminal Defense Lawyer I support these changes which focus on rehabilitation.