In 1994, voters of Oregon passed Measure 11,which forced long compulsory prison terms for 16 designated violent and sex-related offenses, prohibited “earned time,”1 and provided for mandatory waiver of youthful offenders to adult court. This measure stood in sharp contrast to sentencing practices at that time, overlaying the state’s existing sentencing guidelines system for selected offenses, increasing the length of prison terms imposed, and reducing judicial discretion at the sentencing phase.
The main challenge facing everyone is ‘Should Measure11 be repealed’. Yes Claims For Removal Of Measure 11
According to studies undertaken, if measure 11 were repealed, Oregon would save over $612 million in the next 10 years. The savings on new prison construction alone would be $153.6 million dollars between 2000 and 2010. For some crimes that are money worth spending, but for stealing two tires, or stealing a petty amount, and bus pass or fighting, that is wasting our tax dollars that should be going to schools/education, instead of prisons.
Mandatory minimum sentencing means one has to serve every hour of every day of ones sentence no matter what. No good time, no early release, no boot camp. As high as 67% people, under Measure 11 ‘Are First Time Offenders’ and 35% are under 21 years of age.
Instead of warehousing people and spending money on more prisons, we should be investing in prevention programs, and look for a substitute to sentencing plans that have been proven to be far more successful with far less cost.
In the present form, Measure 11 sentences surpass any lesser existing guideline sentences for 21 violent and sex offenses —the original 16, plus 5 more added later. Sentences range from 70 months for second-degree assault, kidnapping, robbery, and certain sex offenses, to 300 months for murder. Penalties may not be reduced because of the offender ’s prior record —regardless of whether an offender has a criminal record, or the length of such record, minimum sentences are the same for all offenders.
Thus, some penalties are actually higher under sentencing guidelines in instances where an offender has an extensive criminal record. In general, however, Measure 11 penalties are longer than those imposed under sentencing guidelines. Juveniles aged 15 years or older are also subject to the measure. Many people believe that the measure would negatively affect criminal justice system operations, and reduce system integrity. In terms of system operation, opponents expected the measure to lead to an increase in jury trials and prison populations, overburdening both the courts and the correctional system. At the same time, they expected an increase in jail sentences.
People opposing this; feel that Measure 11 trials are an undesirable risk, because mandatory sentences eliminate any possibility of judicial caution in sentencing. Rep. Bowman believes that a judge should have some liberty, in setting the sentence for the person found guilty, after investigating all the facts in the case and the background of the defendant. Many of them think that juveniles deserve some consideration from the judge. Judges feel that Measure 11 is too harsh in some cases. Some Assault II and Robbery II charges are uncertain, and sex offenses are serious because of lifetime registry requirements, but judges have no choice but to impose the obligatory sentences.
Judge Sullivan remarks opponents’ concerns about lengthy sentences for juveniles. There are very few services provided to those in the adult system. With no possibility of early release, juveniles have no incentives to re-establish themselves. Defense attorney Wehmeyer also mentions that prisoners cannot earn good time for earlier release and have no enthusiasm to behave. Jackson County officials are concerned that Measure 11 focuses on punishment instead of rehabilitation. Rep. Bowman believes that funds would be bettered spent on treatment and therapy than on mandatory prison terms.
Rep. Bowman is concerned that Measure 11 discriminates against racial minorities and the poor, who cannot afford high-priced lawyers. She points to statistics that show that although African-Americans comprise only 2 percent of the state’s juvenile population, they are 16 percent of the juveniles serving time under Measure 11. Multnomah County’s Juvenile Crime Trends Report of March 1999 confirms that “despite being approximately 10% of the total youth population (10-17 yrs.). In Multnomah County, African-Americans are over-represented in the juvenile justice system at 21% to 23% of the offender population.”
Opponents point out that juvenile crime had been decreasing both nationally and in Oregon before Measure 11 was implemented. They believe that the measure was harsh and inflexible, and that it discriminated against racial minorities and the poor.
Proponents of the measure believed that these enhanced penalties would improve public safety by deterring future criminal behavior and increasing the length of time that felons who commit serious crimes spend in prison.
District attorney Hehn believes that the certainty of mandatory prison terms is a “real deterrent” to criminal behavior by juveniles. She feels that juveniles did not take the previous juvenile justice system seriously. District attorney Heiser also feels that Measure 11 has been a restriction for younger teens and a reflection that the public was “fed up with coddling teenagers.”
Measure 11 did have an impact on the crime rates in Oregon. Crime rates, particularly for violent crime, declined in Oregon after 1995. According to various surveys the findings are consistent with the possibility that Measure 11 may have been at least partly responsible for this decline, such findings do not provide clear evidence of a causal link. An examination of other
factors, different opinions, and further surveys, would need to be made before definite conclusions can be drawn.
The only things unforeseen about Measure 11 are, that the drop in crime has been far greater than expected and the cost has been far less than predicted. As per studies, Oregon’s violent crime rate dropped 41 percent from 1995 to 2001 while the number of extra prison beds required by Measure 11 was less than half the original estimate.
Measure 11 has been in effect for only four years. It is difficult to determine its total, long-term effects on public safety and justice in Oregon. It remains a highly charged and emotional issue.
The result of various studies indicate that passage of Measure 11 has altered sentencing and case processing practices for those charged with serious person offenses in the state of Oregon. While some of these were planned system changes, others were unplanned and are not fully understood. The measure can be considered a success in that it has accomplished its intended goal of increasing the length of prison sentences for offenders convicted of Measure11- eligible offenses. However, since passage of the measure, fewer offenders have been sentenced for the Measure 11 offenses, and a greater proportion have been sentenced for Measure11-alternate offenses.
Analyses suggest that this move resulted from the use of prosecutorial caution and the reduction of cases which, though technically Measure11-eligible, were not deemed appropriate for the associated mandatory minimum penalty. Although the selective use of Measure 11, along with Oregon ’s prison construction program and reduced crime rates, has enabled the state to avoid the negative consequences of prison overcrowding, the process by which cases are being chosen for either full or partial prosecution is unclear. Prosecutors who were interviewed were confident in their ability to apply the measure properly; however, it is not clear what criteria were used in making their decisions, or whether these criteria were constantly and equitably applied. Further research should address how discretion is exercised and charging decisions made under Measure 11.
Oregon ’s Measure 11 introduced bold changes into the sentencing structure of the state. Surveys addressed the execution and impact of the measure on prosecution, sentencing, and convictions, both statewide and in three other counties also. As with many policy changes, some of the observed consequences were expected, others were not. Further research and experience with the measure will provide more definitive answers to the questions raised.
There are many things said about Measure 11. This measure has its share of pros and cons. Whatever be it, offenders above 15 should be given a fair chance for rehabilitation, proper education and good facilities. The offenders should have separate premises and not be clubbed with the adult offenders. The introduction of the Measure 11 is mainly to reduce the rate of crime in teenagers, and it should focus on that aspect only.
Hence it is very necessary that Measure 11 should live up to its standards and abide by the rules and regulations of the law.
“Oregon Mandatory Min Sentencing Law Measure 11”
Oregon Department of Corrections Statistics, 6 December 2006.
Bob, Dee Dee Kouns, Crime Victims United, 6 December 2006
League of Women Voters of Oregon Education Fund, 6 December 2006,