The Register-Guard Letters
Supporters of Measure 94 know that they can not win if the public actually understands Measure 11, so they have launched a concerted campaign to mislead and deceive the public. One of their chief deceptions is to make you think that Measure 11 covers property crimes, drug crimes and minor altercations. This is false. Measure 11 covers only the most serious crimes of violence and sexual abuse.
Three letters that appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard illustrate how they try to perpetrate this deception.
In the following letter, the name of the Oregon inmate has been replaced with "INMATE" and the names of his parents with "PARENTS".
Eugene Register- Guard, 7/28/2000
MEASURE 11 GOES TOO FAR
Voters passed an unfair law in 1994 that is putting 15 year olds in prison for a minimum of six years. It's called Measure 11, Oregon's law flawed mandatory minimum sentencing law.
More than 60 percent of people sentenced under measure 11 are first time offenders and younger than age 21. Some of them have never even had a traffic ticket. As a former Eugene resident who is currently serving a Measure 11 sentence at the Ore. State Correctional Institution in Salem, I am well aware that one simple mistake can land a person in prison for a minimum of 70 months.
Mandatory minimum sentencing has quadrupled the prison population in recent years. It cost taxpayers $25,000.00 a year per inmate. That's a $150,000.00 to $200,000.00 for an inmate sentenced under Measure 11. If the law continues, more prisons will have to be built at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Instead of sending first-time offenders to prison for so long, we need more alternative programs such as anger management and sex-offender treatment programs, thus giving first-time offenders a lighter sentence.
Measure 11 takes all of the power away from judges and gives it to the district attorneys. They decide the sentence length, not the judges. Once a jury convict a defendant of a Measure 11 crime, the judge has to give them prison time regardless of the circumstances and has no way of lowering the sentence.
Even if a victim doesn't want the defendant to go to prison, it doesn't matter. The district attorney can and will press charges and throw the defendant in prison. When a defendant shows remorse for his or her crime and confesses to it, the district attorney presses charges just as if he or she would for a person showing no remorse at all.
Measure 11 is unjust and putting many people in prison for much longer than they deserve. Show compassion and vote to repeal the mandatory minimum sentencing law on Nov. 7. Give the power back to the judges.
INMATE, Inmate Ore. State Penitentiary, Salem
Eugene Register Guard, 8/1/2000
I was quite amazed at the chutzpah of Oregon State Penitentiary inmate INMATE's July 27 letter complaining about the Measure 11 guidelines under which he was sentenced. We don't know what his crime was, but I imagine it involved more than "one simple mistake."
INMATE also insinuates that alternative programs such as anger management or sex-offender treatment would be more in order than mandatory incarceration. I doubt that, too. That view reflects only the tiresome jailhouse lament: "It's not my fault."
The provisions of Measure 11 apply only to the most heinous criminal activity: murder, manslaughter, assault, kidnapping, rape, sodomy, robbery and sexual abuse. A review of Measure 11 reveals only three crimes that can result in a 70-month minimum mandatory sentence: assault in the second degree, kidnapping in the second degree or robbery in the second degree - all of which involve more than an an inability to control one's anger.
I am equally unimpressed by INMATE's contrived concern for Oregon's taxpayers. He fails to appreciate that almost 800,000 Oregonians voted for Measure 11 (almost 2-to-1) because they realized that too many criminals had preyed on too many citizens for too long.
THOMAS F. BECKER
Eugene Register Guard, 8/16/2000
Rewrite Measure 11
We need to respond to Thomas Becker's inaccurate assessment (letters, Aug. 1) of Oregon State Penitentiary inmate INMATE, who wrote a July 27 letter complaining about the reality of Measure 11.
As INMATE's parents, we share his concerns about how just and beneficial Measure 11 turned out to be. Since we know what happened, we don't appreciate Becker "imagining" our son's situation and attitude. INMATE's letter wasn't a "jailhouse lament" as much as a cry for help, for him and the other young people being harmed by the present incarceration system.
We were some of the 800,000 Oregonians who voted for Measure 11 five years ago believing that it was designed to get repeat offenders off the streets, not to teach teen-agers how to become hardened criminals by dumping them in the penitentiary for six to 10 years. It just goes to show that 500,000 Frenchmen can be wrong.
Becker includes robbery (stealing your neighbor's bike) and assault (defending yourself against the school bully with a pocket knife) in his list of "heinous crimes" covered by Measure 11. Since criminally negligent homicide isn't covered by Measure 11, apparently killing a child is not nearly as bad as stealing a bicycle. Doesn't sound like justice to us. Isn't a life worth more than property?
The point is, Measure 11 was a good idea that didn't turn out like it was advertised. Let's dump it and get it rewritten like it should be, putting our judges back in charge.
So what did INMATE actually do to land in prison? Steal a bike? Defend himself with a pocket knife? Make one simple mistake?