OREGON'S MEASURE 11 turned 16 this spring, but a new study released last week reveals the unequal impact of the law.
The voter-approved mandatory minimums measure went into effect statewide in 1995 and revolutionized how Oregon's justice system works. The law hands down stiff mandatory sentences for certain property and violent crimes and tries juveniles over age 15 as adults.
Since it passed, Oregon's prison population has doubled to 14,000 inmates, and will cost $1.36 billion over the next two years. The measure has also cut back the role of judges: Over 90 percent of sentences for youths convicted of Measure 11 crimes are decided through plea deals with attorneys, rather than in a trial.
But that's old news. Here's what's new: An extensive study by the Campaign for Youth Justice and the Partnership for Safety and Justice of 3,274 juvenile Measure 11 cases shows that kids of color are more likely to be punished under the law, and often wrongly. See the charts for their major findings.
Governor John Kitzhaber's office pushed to reduce the role of mandatory minimums in the legislature this year. But the effort failed when bills that would have suspended the implementation of Measure 57, 2008's "tough on crime" act, never got to a vote in the legislature ["Tough Luck," News, June 23]. A law keeping kids out of adult jails before their pretrial hearings did pass, however.
Just this month, Governor Kitzhaber took another stab at reworking Oregon's justice system. He appointed former-Governor Ted Kulongoski to a commission that will look into reforming Oregon's sentencing laws.