Back in November, Oregonians passed Measure 57, a ballot initiative drafted by the legislature as an alternative to Measure 61. Both measures addressed changes to sentencing laws for drug and property crimes. Though Measure 57 was billed as the less costly of the two, in these tough times, some legislators want to save the state an estimated $74 million by delaying the implementation of 57 to 2011. The deferral would require a two-thirds vote in the legislature (40 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate), meaning both Republicans and Democrats would need to get on board.
Critics argue that by delaying the measure’s implementation, the legislature would be going against the will of the voters. The Oregon District Attorneys Association has proposed an alternative money-saving measure: a one-time early release of approximately 2,000 nonviolent offenders.
Governor Ted Kulongoski spoke in favor of a delay in response to a question following his State of the State address last Friday. He said,
What if we just said that because of these economic hard times, let’s not spend more money on building another prison, but let’s invest in our schools? Why don’t we just delay it for two years, get us past this, let the economy start coming back and then do something? You know what my problem is? It takes a two-thirds vote of the legislature.
Measure 57 is intimately linked to the construction of a 532-bed state prison south of Junction City. Many residents there oppose the delay because it would mean postponing the prison construction project that could serve as a much-needed boost for the local economy (one that has been hurting for jobs since two area RV manufacturers laid off a lot of people earlier this year).
Do you live in Junction City? Do you work in the Oregon Corrections Department or in drug treatment? Have you ever been the victim of a property crime? What would a delay of Measure 57 mean for you?
- Jeff Barker: Oregon state representative (D-Aloha) who is part of the legislative workgroup trying to find savings in the public safety budgets
- Doug Harcleroad: Former Lane Count district attorney and past president of the Oregon District Attorneys Association, currently an attorney and advocate for the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance and an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon
- Max Williams: Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections
- David Rogers: Executive director of the Partnership for Safety and Justice
- David Clyne: City administrator for Junction City