The PEW Center on the states presented about 65 pages of power point slides at the July 23, 2012 Commission. It is too much information to summarize here but three items seemed particularly significant. If you want to view the entire two-part presentation go to: http://cms.oregon.gov/CJC/Documents/CPSOregonCommCorrections_7.23.12_Final.pdf and http://cms.oregon.gov/CJC/Documents/CPSOregonCorrectionsCosts_final_7.23.12.pdf
Now for the 3 significant items.
1. MEASURE 11
“M11 is not causing the most recent growth, but still having a significant impact on the prison population because of lengthy sentences.” (page 4 of the first slide presentation)
What this means is that M11, which puts individuals convicted of any of 16 felony violent and felony sexual crimes in prison, is not the cause of the increase in the prison population forecast over the next 10 years. Said another way, M11 is not the cause of the forecast increase from 14,000 inmates today to the projected 16,000 inmates 10 years from now.
When M11 was passed by the voters in 1994 and implemented in 1995, the prison population began to rise and continued to rise over the years, although not nearly as fast as predicted by the forecasters. The forecasters simply got it wrong. Predicting the future is difficult. And now, the number of criminals sent to prison each year for a M11 crime has leveled off.
What this really means is that there is no need to modify M11 in order to keep the prison population from rising – M11 is not part of the increase in the forecast, but it certainly has been a significant part of the 51% reduction in violent crime Oregon has had over the last 15 or so years.
A final note: the lengthy sentences, referenced in the PEW bullet-point quote above, are not as lengthy as the quote would lead the reader to believe. The longest M11 mandatory minimum sentence, excluding murder, is 10 years. Murder carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years. The Oregon legislature has added some 25-year mandatory minimum sentences for the worst sex offenders who prey on children. The reason M11 offenders are in prison for 15, 20, or more years is because they have done multiple M11 crimes. The sentencing judge sentenced them on each crime, making the sentences run consecutively – one after the other.
2. PROBATION SUCCESS DROPS – SUPERVISION SUCCESS AFTER PRISON IS UP
- An increasing proportion of technical violators are being sentenced to prison
- Post-prison supervision success rates have risen over time
- Both new crimes and technical revocations are falling
- However a larger percentage of revocations are leading to a prison sentence” (page 39 of the first slide presentation)
What does this mean?
Individuals placed on probation instead of being sent to prison are “flunking out” of probation more today than they were 10 years ago. They are “flunking out” because they are violating the terms and conditions of their probation which were set by a judge. If the offender won’t comply with the judge’s order, then the judge gives them a prison sentence. What is the judge supposed to do? Nothing?
After prison sentences, offenders placed on post-prison supervision (the current term for parole) are more successful than they were 10 years ago. Is it because prison made them want to go straight? Is it because they had better or different supervision or programs in prison or when they got out of prison as compared to individuals placed on probation? Or is it something else? The point is, for some offenders, after-prison supervision seems to be working better.
3. CORRECTION COSTS ARE UP — WHY?
“• The two primary drivers of corrections costs – the number of inmates, and the cost to incarcerate inmates – have risen in OR
• Oregon’s cost per day (one indicator of the cost to incarcerate) is growing (33%) but not at pace with the total corrections budget (39%).
• Though difficult to compare across states, Oregon’s corrections compensation is likely higher than state averages. However, this issue is not unique to corrections.” (page 22 of the second report)
What does this mean?
First, the more offenders we incarcerate the more it costs. Second, it costs $82.48 per day to incarcerate an offender in the Oregon penitentiary system. A legislative fiscal office report indicates the $82.48 is higher than the average of the 12 comparison states selected, including all the states bordering Oregon.
The Governor’s Public Safety Commission should work just as hard on cost control as it does on inmate population control. Cost control recommendations should treat employees fairly.