TO THE EDITOR: Thank you for your kind benevolence. Monday through Friday mail calls are like a Las Vegas Christmas and now, once a week, I hit the jackpot! I'm glad Portland finally got the Mercury. I think back on how the Stranger added a festive sense of community to Seattle, and hopefully y'all will make Portland a smilier locale. Laissez le bon temps roulet!
Oregon Dept. of Corrections
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION
TO THE EDITOR: There are several material errors in Brian Griffey's story ["Strong Arm of Justice," August 24]. The most striking is the statement that "at the heart of the debate are the 350 youths currently housed in adult penitentiaries for so-called Measure 11 crimes." Of the 3000 Measure 11 convicts about 350 TOTAL were then under 18 (only about 180 still are under 18). As of a couple weeks ago there were SIX juveniles in adult Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities as opposed to at the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) which houses all juvenile offenders, irrespective of M-11. Of those six, only 3 were M-11. In order to get kicked out of OYA a youth has to be very uncooperative and assaultive.
The next major misimpression is that defendants who are factually INNOCENT would bend over and take a plea bargain rather than face the certainty of a M-11 sentence. Plea bargaining has been and will continue to go on regardless of M-11. I have repeatedly challenged JoAnn Bowman to show a single case of an INNOCENT who pled rather than "roll the dice" and go to trial. Since in Oregon it is the defendant's choice to have a jury or not, the defense lawyer would have to have NO faith at all in the judge or jury to see that an innocent defendant would be exonerated. I would guess that 99 percent of the people who go to trial ARE guilty, but we prosecutors only win about 80-85 percent of our trials, so it sounds like the rolling dice are loaded in the defendant's favor.
Finally, although I don't know the details of the case, the final paragraph implies the judge acting incredulous about McClellan "getting a raw deal....' For a pack of cigarettes?'" While many judges don't like M-11, I suspect the judge was REALLY saying what a idiot McClellan was for getting in so much trouble for something as insignificant as a pack of smokes.
District Attorney, Clatsop County
MORE THERAPY, FEWER PRISONS
TO THE EDITOR: Thanks for your article on the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapies in reducing recidivism (offenders returning to crime). ["New Age Prisoner Reform," August 17]. Some points of clarification:
Cognitive-behavioral therapies represent a new approach to offender rehabilitation, but these approaches are not connected with New Age as the term is popularly known. True cognitive-behavioral therapies, like Moral Reconation Therapy used by Better People, have been well researched since 1988. They are data-based with results published in professional journals like The National Institute of Justice Journal.
While the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) recidivism rate of 1/3 after three years might seem high, it pales in comparison to states like Texas and California where, according to ODOC officials, the recidivism rates are double. Each year, Oregon takes a step closer to California's footsteps with passage of unjust laws like Measure 11 and flirtations with prison privatization, all of which put us closer to the California track of spending more on incarceration than higher education.
Your article played an important part in letting Oregonians know that there are methods that work and that there are alternatives to building more and more prisons.
Better People Executive Director
DEPT. OF APOLOGIES
Sometimes drunks are funny, and sometimes they're just mean. In our August 3rd Drinking Issue, we callously made some very unkind remarks about the appearance of one of our city's finest bartenders. Though the remarks were intended to be humorous, they fell very short of the mark. To this person we offer our most sincere apologies, and if you're ever in our neck of the woods, the next round's on us.