Diane Downs is one of Oregon’s most infamous criminals. Downs has spent the last 25 years in prison after she was convicted of shooting her three small children, killing one of them. Today she learned she will serve at least two more years of her sentence. Downs was eligible for parole, but the board denied her request after deliberating for just 30 minutes this morning. From now on, she can appeal to the parole board every two years.
Most of Oregon’s parole cases are less sensational than that of Diane Downs. According to the Department of Corrections, 13,754 adults who have been released from prison are still under some sort of supervision (parole or otherwise). The parole board has numerous rules and guidelines to follow when considering whether or not to release an inmate. The laws pertaining to parole have changed over the years, most notably with the passage of Measure 11 in 1994. However, the board must apply the law that was in place when the crime was committed. For example, if Diane Downs had shot her children after the passage of Measure 11, she might not be eligible for release.
Have you ever worked as a parole officer? Have you been to prison? Were you released on parole? What led the board to decide in your favor? When should criminals be released on parole?
- Anne Jaeger: Former anchor and reporter for KEZI in Eugene who interviewed Diane Downs many times and current freelance reporter and writer
- Nancy Sellers: Executive director of the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision
- Bronson James: Chief deputy defender at the Oregon Office of Public Defense Services
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OPB | Feb. 22, 2017