Oregonian Publishes Biased Article on Measure 11, Prisons, Budget
CRIME VICTIMS UNITED
On Sunday, April 22, 2007, the lead story on the front page of The Oregonian was entitled “Prison Costs Shackling Oregon”. The gist of the story was that Measure 11, Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentencing law for violent criminals and child molesters, was “shackling” the state by devouring funds that should go for other purposes. The article discusses trends in corrections and public safety funding versus higher education funding, the causes of Oregon’s dramatic decrease in violent crime post-Measure 11, the cost/benefit ratio of incarceration, and other issues. It quotes views from or references data from 18 sources in the main article and four sources in the sidebar entitled “The law didn’t deter, but did sideline.”
Although Crime Victims United is well known as among the primary advocates for and defenders of Measure 11 in the legislature and the public arena, the article’s author, Edward Walsh, did not contact us to discuss any of these issues.
He did interview David Rogers, the director of a prisoner advocacy group formerly named Western Prison Project which has repackaged itself as “Partnership for Safety and Justice” and which is the primary opponent of Measure 11.
The Oregonian saw fit to run a sidebar that tells the story of two armed robbers, but it did not see fit to tell the story of any victims in Measure 11 crimes.
If The Oregonian had deemed it worthwhile to run a sidebar from the victim’s point of view, here is what we might have read:
“Good morning. Well, I’m a crime victim and the perpetrator is in jail for 54 years and nine months. He was up for 111 years but they gave him concurrent sentences.
“The crime that I went through with my daughter changed my life and hers forever.”
“I was a very successful professional in the real estate field. I no longer work in real estate. I’m not comfortable going out with strangers. I’m not comfortable being in closed places. I’m not comfortable in my life at all anymore.”
“And you’d think I’d be over it by now. I’m not.”
“And do I get money to send me to counseling or this or that? No. Nothing.”
“Pay whatever you need to pay to keep these guys in jail because he would do it again.”
“After our crime, he wasn’t arrested. He wasn’t found. He was found two-and-a-half years later leaving the rape of a 50-plus-year-old woman who was raped in front of her disabled husband in a wheelchair.”
“He deserves to be in prison for 54 years and nine months with no parole.”
“I’m sorry, I’m very, very emotional about this right now.”
“Give me the phone book. I’ll call everyone in the phone book to stop anything that diminishes Measure 11. Because I know he’s gone, other people are gone. They’re in prison, they can’t get out. And that’s exactly where they should be.”
“And let’s take a little money out of the bureaucracy and put it into the prison and forget about letting them out.”
- Linda, caller to the Jeff Kropf Show on KXL Radio, Sunday April 22, 2007 (listen)
The only conclusion we can take from the lack of balance in this article is that The Oregonian published a partisan advocacy piece on the front page of its Sunday edition. If The Oregonian is going to be an advocate, it should drop the pretense of being an objective news source.
The article included many points of fact and opinion which we challenge. Here they are:
“Prison costs shackling Oregon”
This is the title of the front-page article. You would think that prisons are the largest item in the budget. In the 2005-2007 biennium, total spending for prisons is about $900 million, total spending for all education is $15.5 billion, the total state budget is $42.8 billion. These figures represent funding from all sources including state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, tuition and fees. By citing only general fund spending, The Oregonian article masks the true magnitude of prison spending relative to the total budget.
“Public safety vs higher education”
This caption for a graph from the article shows that, in the 2007-2009 biennium, the governor’s general fund budget for Public Safety is projected to exceed the budget for Higher Education. A footnote says that public safety includes the Department of Corrections, the Oregon Youth Authority and the State Police but omits the Criminal Justice Commission, the District Attorneys, the Department of Justice, the Military Department, the Parole Board and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. So this is not a comparison of prisons and higher education.
Furthermore, by citing only general and lottery fund figures, the graph omits other taxpayer spending such as federal taxes that flow back to the state and property taxes. As you will learn shortly, this paints a misleading picture.
“How much prisons cost you”
This caption for a sidebar from the article shows the per-household spending for prisons and public safety was $632 in 1985-1987 versus $1,133 in 2005-2007 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Since a major thrust of the article is an analysis of the economic effect of Measure 11, which took effect in 1995, it makes no sense to compare current spending to 1985-1987. It should be compared to the 1993-1995 biennium.
More glaring is the omission from this graphic and from the entire article of the cost to taxpayers for locking up 3,500 armed robbers, kidnappers, child molesters, forcible rapists, murderers and other violent criminals who would be on the street except for Measure 11.
We asked the Legislative Fiscal Office what Measure 11 cost taxpayers in the current biennium. The answer was $223 million, a lot of money to be sure. But it amounts to just $31 per Oregonian per year. This is less than the monthly cost of cable television for most families. And it pales into insignificance compared to the “crime tax” extracted from Oregonians by criminals each year.
“In the next two years, the state will spend tens of millions more tax money to lock up prison inmates than it does to educate students at community colleges and state universities.”
This is the first paragraph of The Oregonian article. It is wrong because it counts just state income tax money.
Crime Victims United asked the Legislative Fiscal Office how much taxpayer money, from state and federal income taxes, is devoted to Higher Education in the Governor’s 2007-2009 budget. The answer we got was about $1.9 billion. This excludes tuition, fees and other funds that are not tax money. Community Colleges are a separate budget item that adds another $638 million (not including property tax revenue that they also receive). The total is roughly $2.5 billion. This compares to about $1.1 billion for prisons. The Oregonian’s lead paragraph is simply factually wrong.
“As legislators and the governor debate how much money to spend on schools and higher education, there is little discussion in Salem about spiraling prison costs.” (emphasis added)
Nothing could be further from the truth. A well-funded criminal advocacy group has raised this issue in dozens of hearings. The chair of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Public Safety, a prominent prisoner advocate, has made this the focus of his efforts. He went so far as to bring the President of the University of Oregon into a hearing to testify that prison spending is adversely affecting the higher education budget. In December a major seminar was held in Portland during which several legislators, including the Senate President, the Chair of the Joint Ways & Means Committee, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, were panelists and spoke at length about the cost of prisons.
On March 26th, a hearing on the “Smart on Crime Bill”, SB 856, was held during which legislators pounded on the prison spending issue. You can listen to the audio of the hearing yourself.
This has been a subject of frequent conversation during the process of generating the governor’s budget and in the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee, and in many other venues.
“Oregon taxpayers now spend roughly the same money to incarcerate 13,401 inmates as they do to educate 438,000 university and community college students.”
As noted above, the governor’s 2007-2009 all-funds budget includes $4.5 billion of taxpayer money for higher education and community colleges versus approximately $1.1 billion for prisons.
“Why do prison costs soar beyond population growth? Since June 1995 after Measure 11 took effect, the prison population has grown from 7,539 to 13,401 inmates, including 5,387 Measure 11 offenders. To keep them locked up, the state has built three prisons and expanded five others the past decade. Another new prison -- Oregon's 14th -- opens this fall. A 15th prison, probably in Medford, would open in 2012.”
Completely lacking here is any historical perspective. Measure 11 and Oregon’s prison construction did not arise out of a vacuum. From 1960 to 1985, Oregon’s violent crime rate increased by nearly 700 percent. During this time, Oregon built one new prison with a capacity of 400 beds.
And the “Violent crime declines” graph they ran on the front page obfuscates this history by excluding the period from 1960 to 1980 during which most of Oregon’s violent crime increase occurred.
Without the huge increase in violent crime from 1960 to 1980, an increase not mentioned in The Oregonian article, we would have no Measure 11 because it would not be needed.
It bears noting that this obscene increase in violent crime came during a period where the “tough-on-crime” view was looked upon as barbaric and the soft approach, which held sway, was considered enlightened. The enlightened people somehow failed to notice the nearly 700 percent violent crime rate increase. Now people espousing similar views once again claim the enlightened mantle and are fighting to retake control of the criminal justice system.
Furthermore, the article neglected to say that prison population growth is leveling off. The April, 2007 Prison Population Forecast says:
“The rate of growth in the prison population has been gradually slowing. Comparing biennial growth rates shows that the population grew by 15.7 percent in the 1999-01 biennium, 12.2 percent in 2001-03, and 7.3 percent in 2003-05. Growth in the current biennium is expected to be 5.4 percent (697 beds), while 4.3 percent growth (589 beds) is expected for the next biennium.”
Table 1 of that report shows that prison population growth is projected to continue to level off until, in 2017, there is no growth at all. The article did not mention this trend.
“According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Oregon's annual per inmate cost of $24,665 made it the nation's 24th most expensive prison system to operate in 2005.”
So what? Oregon has the 27th largest population.
What’s missing here, and what is missing from the entire article, is that, contrary to the article’s drift that Oregon has gone incarceration-crazy, Oregon ranks 34th among states in total (prison and jail) incarceration rate.
“With so many criminals locked up, both Oregon and the nation have seen a steady decline in violent crime rates. In Oregon, there were about five violent crimes -- homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- per 1,000 population in the 1980s compared with 2.8 crimes in 2005.”
What the article fails to mention is that, from 1995, when Measure 11 went into effect, until 2002, Oregon led all states in decreased violent crime rate. This came on the heels of 25 years of skyrocketing violent crime (1960-1985) followed by 10 years during which violent crime was roughly flat near peak levels. From 1995 to 2002, Oregon’s violent crime decreased by 44 percent compared to 28 percent for the nation as a whole.
“But the decline has leveled off in recent years. A growing consensus among researchers concludes that the benefits of longer sentences diminish as a state prison system grows. Their studies show that each new cell added to a prison system has less impact on crime than earlier additions because so many career criminals already are locked up.”
We wonder why The Oregonian sees fit to mention that the decrease in violent crime is leveling off but does not see fit to mention that the increase in prison population is leveling off.
It is true that this notion of diminishing returns has gained popularity. It may be correct. But we wonder why researchers think a career-child molester convicted in 2005 would be any less prolific than a career-child molester convicted in 1995.
Consider this case, reported by The Oregonian the day before the Measure 11 article appeared:
A Northeast Portland man pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday for killing a man in Gresham last fall by plowing a stolen vehicle into the victim's car while trying to escape police.
Tyson Robert MacKay, 24, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Multnomah County Circuit Court for killing Christopher Grassl, 22.
Janet Grassl, the mother of the victim, held a picture of her son in court Friday. Facing MacKay, she said, "I want you to see whose life you took. None of this is an accident. You had control of the circumstances. You could have stopped this before it ever started."
. . .
According to court records, MacKay has been convicted of burglary, assault, violating a stalking order, witness tampering, driving with a suspended license and several other traffic-related offenses. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of intoxicants in 2004 and had entered a diversion program. (emphasis added)
Although it is 12 years after Measure 11 went into effect, we suspect that incarcerating Mr. MacKay in 2007 will return the same benefits as incarcerating a habitual-criminal-drunk-driver-killer in 1995.
Three days later, this appeared in The Oregonian:
A 27-year-old man accused in the April 14 killing of Sharvettia Monique Brown, whose body was found off Northeast Lombard Street, was arraigned Monday on a murder charge, as well as burglary and first-degree assault charges stemming from two unrelated cases in 2006.
After his arrest Friday night, police say, a DNA sample linked Imani Charles Williams to a Feb. 4, 2006, burglary in the 2700 block of Northeast Bryant Street and a March 17, 2006, first-degree assault of a woman.
. . .
Williams had a history of drug abuse and prior convictions for theft, criminal mischief and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and at least 11 failures to appear in court in Multnomah County since November 2005, according to court records.
. . .
In mid-December, he was arrested and accused of breaking into a car on Northeast Liberty Street and trying to steal a stereo from the vehicle.
Clearly the diminishing returns here came, as they have in so many cases, from letting a habitual criminal get away with contempt for the criminal justice system.
“After reviewing numerous studies of the link between incarceration and crime rates, the Vera Institute of Justice in New York said in a recent report: ‘Analysts are nearly unanimous in their conclusion that continued growth in incarceration will prevent considerably fewer, if any, crimes -- and at substantially greater cost to taxpayers.’”
The Oregonian neglected to mention that the Vera Institute is not an objective source but rather a left-leaning, anti-incarceration organization.
“Such findings have spurred states such as Washington to study alternatives to building more prisons.”
Oregon is already a world-beater when it comes to alternatives to incarceration. According to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, in 2006, 72 percent of convicted felons received probation sentences. 7 percent received “local control” sentences. Just 21 percent of convicted felons went to prison.
[Our original rebuttal said “In 2005, 84 percent of convicted felons received probation sentences. Just 16 percent of convicted felons went to prison.” This statement was based on a letter that the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission sent us in early 2007. On May 10th the CJC informed us that the figure they provided was incorrect. They were unable to give us a corrected figure for 2005 but did report that in 2006, 21 percent of convicted felons received prison sentences, 7 percent received local control sentences and 72 percent received probation sentences.]
“A recent study by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, a state agency, concluded that the number of crimes prevented each year by adding one inmate to the Oregon prison system has declined from nearly 30 per new inmate in 1994 to slightly more than 10 crimes in 2005.”
Again, we wonder why they think a career-child molester convicted in 2005 would be any less prolific than a career-child molester convicted in 1995. And we also wonder what’s wrong with preventing 10 crimes a year.
“The cost-benefit ratio of prison expansion has also diminished. In 1994, each additional $1 spent on incarceration yielded $3.31 in reduced crime costs, the study said. By 2005, the benefit per $1 spent was $1.03, barely above the break-even point.”
The article neglected to mention the following statement from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission’s 2007 Report to the Legislature:
“This estimate has also been done for Washington by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy. They examined the benefits of incarcerating violent offenders, property offenders and drug offenders. They found that it is much more cost-effective to incarcerate violent offenders. They estimated that in 2005, for every dollar the state invested in incarceration for violent offenders the return in tax payer and victimization benefits was $4.35. They also estimated that it was not cost-effective to incarcerate drug offenders, with every dollar invested returning only $0.35.” (emphasis added)
“Due to data limitations, it was not possible to estimate a cost-benefit ratio for each type of offender for Oregon. However, there are many similarities between Oregon and Washington that make these estimates seem reasonable for Oregon.” (emphasis added)
Since Oregon’s prison population is 70 percent inmates who committed crimes against people and just 10 percent illegal drug manufacturers and dealers, it would seem that Oregon’s overall return would be much closer to the $4.35 figure than to the $0.35 figure. And yet the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission reports a $1.03 overall return on a dollar invested. This bears further examination, but we see nothing wrong with a break-even on incarceration.
"Craig Prins, executive director of the justice commission and the study's other co-author, says their findings suggest that the Legislature should explore alternatives for fighting crime. That's what we gave up to build the prisons, and I see this session as a time to take advantage of that, to try to treat their addictions and change their thinking. I think there's evidence it's a good investment."
If treatment is as effective as Measure 11 opponents claim, and returns significantly more than a dollar for each dollar spent, there is no reason why the Legislature should not fund treatment as well as prisons, as they have been doing.
Oregon has 34,000 convicted felons on parole or probation. If treatment proponents are right, we can dry up the stream of criminals going into prison by treating these people without sacrificing additional innocent people through major cuts in sentences for the most serious criminals.
“The Legislature has cut programs for offenders such as alcohol and drug abuse treatment and education programs, particularly after the recession forced deep cuts across state government in 2003.”
During the period of dramatically increased prison population and dramatically lower spending per inmate on treatment, we have seen decreases in recidivism that surpass those projected for evidence-based cognitive/behavioral programs. The average recidivism for the 8 years prior to Measure 11 was 33.5 percent while the average recidivism for the 8 years after Measure 11 was 30.8 percent. This represents an 8 percent decrease in recidivism despite dramatically reduced treatment program spending.
Those who think prison spending has sucked the lifeblood out of crime prevention, education, and health care should ponder this: since 1994, Oregon has added a multi-million dollar early-childhood wellness program, added a multi-million dollar juvenile crime prevention program, expanded reentry programs for convicts, increased Oregon Health Plan enrollment from 250,000 to 400,000, increased the number of students enrolled in state universities by roughly one-third, devoted millions of dollars to the Oregon Cultural Trust, and spent millions to seed a biotechnology boom that never boomed.
“O'Leary estimates 75 percent to 80 percent of Oregon inmates need alcohol and drug treatment. ‘We have to ask ourselves, if 98 percent of these people in prison are eventually going to get out, isn't it smart to be doing something with them while they're in custody to try to increase the odds they're not going to reoffend and create new victims?’ O'Leary said.”
This makes it sound like there is no treatment, no counseling, no education, no work, no opportunity for religious observance and no activities going on in Oregon prisons. This is not the case, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections:
“Research shows meaningful work is known to contribute to the success of inmates upon release. The department’s correctional programs contribute to inmates’ preparedness for work. Department programs include education, cognitive change, vocational training, mental health, and alcohol and drug treatment. These programs give inmates a solid foundation of skills and attitudes they need to gain employment and succeed in the workplace. Most Oregon inmates have a job while incarcerated to further develop practical work habits while providing on-the-job experience.” – From DOC web site (emphasis added)
“Others would go beyond expanding treatment programs. David Rogers, executive director of the Partnership for Safety and Justice, an advocacy group, recommends that lawmakers increase the amount of time inmates can earn off their sentences beyond the existing 20 percent cap and extend a modest ‘earned time’ benefit to Measure 11 inmates, who now aren't eligible for that benefit.”
To characterize “Partnership for Safety and Justice” as merely “an advocacy group” leaves far more unsaid than said. “Partnership for Safety and Justice”, formerly known as Western Prison Project, is a prisoner advocacy group, funded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute, whose agenda consists mainly of trying to find ways to get criminals out of prison.
This organization merged with “Crime Survivors For Community Safety”, formerly known as “Survivors Advocating for an Effective System”, formerly known as “Crime Victims For Justice”, which opposed all of the victims’ rights ballot measures in 1999 and supported the repeal of Measure 11 in 2000, which, if it had succeeded, would have resulted in the immediate release of 800 violent criminals, with thousands more to follow. “Crime Victims For Justice” was funded largely by the ACLU and defense lawyers.
In the current legislative session, David Rogers and the “Partnership for Safety and Justice” have advocated the gutting of the core principles of Measure 11 - mandatory-minimum sentences, truth-in-sentencing, and trying the most violent 15, 16, and 17-year olds in adult court. They have a right to advocate these views but they should not be characterized as merely “an advocacy group”. And what is the justification for including the chief opponent of Measure 11 in this article while excluding Crime Victims United, its chief proponent?
“Critics of an incarceration strategy contend that the decline in violent crime cannot so easily be linked to Measure 11. In a 2004 study, Judith A. Greene, an analyst at Justice Strategies in New York, compared what happened in Oregon and New York from 1995 to 2002.”
The article neglects to mention that Judith A. Greene’s study was commissioned by Western Prison Project, the chief opponent of Measure 11. She is a recipient of the “Soros Senior Justice Fellowship” and has worked for many anti-incarceration organizations including Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Vera Institute.
“Both states experienced a sharp reduction in violent crime. But New York, unlike Oregon, also cut its incarceration rate. More effective policing tactics instituted under then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are widely credited with the crime reduction.”
After decades of increased incarceration that totaled nearly 300 percent, New York cut its incarceration rate by roughly 10 percent mostly by eliminating long mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. The Drug Policy Alliance had this to say about New York:
“Enacted in 1973, New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws are among the harshest mandatory minimum sentencing schemes in the nation . . . Most prisoners serving sentences for drug crimes are people who possess drugs for their own use, low level sellers, or couriers.”
“Under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the possession of four ounces or sale of two ounces of certain controlled substances is a Class A felony and carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison. Possession of two ounces or the sale of half an ounce mandates three years to life in prison. Persons convicted of Class A felonies, regardless of the nature of their involvement, receive the same maximum sentence as people convicted of murder, arson, and kidnapping. They are punished more severely than most felons convicted of rape, manslaughter, and robbery.”
By contrast, Oregon has never had mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. In fact, it has some of the most lenient drug penalties in the country. In Oregon the presumptive sentence for a fourth conviction for selling a street-level quantity of drugs is probation, provided that the dealer has no prior person felony convictions. And no one is in an Oregon prison solely for possessing drugs.
Oregon and New York are about as far apart on the sentencing spectrum as they are in geographic terms. Ms. Greene’s point is bogus.
“The drop in Oregon's violent crime rate during the 1990s cannot be attributed primarily to Measure 11, Greene said in the report. The effect of the longer sentences would not be felt until years later, after inmates remained in prison beyond their likely release date under the old sentencing system.”
The RAND Corporation Report on Measure 11 (page 45) says:
“As Figure 5.8 shows, prior to passage of Measure 11, 66% of M11-eligible cases received prison sentences.”
This means that 34 percent received probation and their “likely release date” preceded the date of their trial. The claim that “the effect of longer sentences would not be felt until years later” is nonsense. That’s why the RAND Corporation removed it from its December 2003 draft, after we called it to their attention.
Crime Victims United demolished Ms. Greene’s arguments in an article on our web page shortly after her paper was released. Somehow The Oregonian managed to dig up Ms. Greene’s report but failed to unearth our refutation.
“‘Measure 11 has cost Oregon an enormous amount of money,’ Greene said in an interview. ‘Here in New York, we're getting equal or better results, and we're saving money. If it were true that incarceration was the cause in Oregon and better policing was the cause in New York, you'd certainly choose better policing. You would choose the one that costs less.’”
In 2005, Oregon’s violent crime rate was 287 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. New York’s was 446 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. If New York could reduce its violent crime rate to Oregon’s level, it would prevent 30,687 violent crimes every year. Perhaps it is New York that could learn from Oregon rather than the other way around.
Ms. Greene knows perfectly well that New York’s decrease in incarceration came on the heels of a huge increase in incarceration. After New York’s decrease and Oregon’s increase, their incarceration rates are roughly the same. She also knows that virtually every state increased sentence lengths in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The RAND Corporation report said that, by 1994, every state had some form of mandatory minimum sentencing.
“William Spelman, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, did some of the pioneering research on how states reap diminishing rewards as they build more prisons. He says the effectiveness of an incarceration strategy ‘depends mostly on who you're putting in that prison bed.’”
The article neglects to report Dr. Spelman’s finding that about 25 percent of the drop in violent crime can be attributed to incarceration. We feel the 25 percent number is low, especially for Oregon which led the nation in violent crime decrease from 1995 to 2002. But even using the 25 percent figure, this adds up to tens of thousands of violent crimes prevented by Measure 11.
"If you are putting away drug offenders or burglars, it's almost certainly a waste of taxpayer money," Spelman says. "If they're armed robbers, maybe it does make sense."
Since Measure 11 does not put away drug offenders or burglars and does put away armed robbers, as well as kidnappers, child molesters, forcible rapists, drunk drivers who maim and kill, murderers and other violent criminals, it would appear that Dr. Spelman would agree with us - Measure 11 does make sense.
Mr. Willard and Mr. Rosling knew about Measure 11 and wanted to avoid it but were not deterred. In other words, they were undeterrable. Is this a reason to put them on the street?
While Mr. Willard and Mr. Rosling weren’t deterred, it is plausible that others were. Shortly before the 2000 ballot measure that would have repealed Measure 11, Dan Golden, Assistant Director of the Klamath County Juvenile Department, surveyed delinquent youth in his community on their knowledge of and attitudes about Measure 11. He concluded:
“Responses to the survey indicated that youth in juvenile
detention were well aware of Measure 11. Eighty-five percent indicated that
they had heard about Measure 11, and a similar percentage knew that Measure 11
applies to kids aged 15 to 18. Seventy-five percent knew some of the crimes
Measure 11 applies to.”
“The survey asked delinquents, ‘knowing what you know about Measure 11, would you be more or less likely to commit a Measure 11 crime?’ Eighty-five percent responded that they would be less likely to commit a Measure 11 offense.”
Deterrence is like kryptonite to anti-incarceration advocates. They know that if deterrence exists, even a small amount of deterrence, it destroys all of their arguments.
A credible criminal justice system not only keeps criminals in prison – it keeps others out of prison. Deterrence is a well-known mechanism though quantifying it is difficult. But there is another, almost universally-ignored mechanism. A paper by Flores, Latessa and others lists the "big four" criminogenic risk factors as criminal history, antisocial attitudes, personality and associates. In other words, who you hang out with has a significant impact on whether you engage in crime. The 5,500 inmates added from 1995 to 2005 represent 5,500 criminogenic risk factors removed from our society. There is no escaping the conclusion that keeping these people in prison contributes to keeping others out of prison.
A story involving one walking criminogenic risk factor who was not sentenced under Measure 11 is instructive. James Daniel Nelson was released from prison in 2003 after serving 11 years for murder under pre-Measure 11 sentencing guidelines. Though his behavior in prison was atrocious and he was supposedly on post-prison supervision, he wasted no time in recruiting a new “street family”. Within two months, this family, at Nelson’s direction, stabbed, burned and murdered 22-year-old Jessica Kate Williams. Thirteen family members were convicted of crimes ranging from assault to murder. The cost to taxpayers of releasing James Daniel Nelson is in the multiple millions. If Measure 11 had been in effect when Nelson was convicted of his first murder, he would have been in prison until 2017 – a costly proposition to be sure, but far less costly than releasing him. Jessica Kate Williams would be alive and Oregon would have 12 fewer prisoners.
“Prison officials said Rosling and Willard have good records inside the institution and are productive workers in the print shop. The men said they believe they have conquered their meth habits and can stay out of trouble on the outside.”
“‘I’ve just decided now, I’m way too old for that stuff,” said Rosling who has spent about 20 of the past 24 years in Oregon prisons. ‘There’s a pull there, still, even though I know it would be life-ending for me. I can’t do another prison term.’”
If we believe Mr. Rosling, this demonstrates that a person can change when he wants to, with or without treatment.
Considering the facts laid out above, the only conclusion we can reach is that The Oregonian set out to advocate for their view and the view of the anti-incarceration lobby. The only plausible explanation for their failure to seek the views of Crime Victims United is that they made an ideological decision not to. This would be fine if they presented themselves as an advocacy organization but they don’t – they portray themselves as an unbiased news source.
We feel that the errors, omissions, and flawed logic in this article are egregious and that the standard of journalism it represents is abysmal.
Dave Frohnmayer, University of Oregon President
Department of Corrections Budget
Oregon Youth Authority Budget
U.S. Department of Justice
The Vera Institute
Washington State Institute for Public Policy
Steve Aos, Director, Washington State Institute for Public Policy
Oregon Criminal Justice Commission
Michael Wilson, Oregon Criminal Justice Commission
Craig Prins, Oregon Criminal Justice Commission
The Oregon Legislature
Joseph O’Leary, Governor’s Senior Advisor on Public Safety
David Rogers, Western Prison Project
Max Williams, Director, Oregon Department of Corrections
Kevin Mannix, Chief Petitioner of Measure 11 in 1994
Judith. A. Greene, Analyst at Justice Strategies in New York
William Spelman, Professor of Criminology at University of Texas
Roger Rosling, armed robber
Timothy Willard, armed robber
Crime Victims United
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Parents of Murdered Children
Oregon District Attorneys Association
Oregon Sheriffs Association
Association of Oregon Chiefs of Police
Portland Police Association