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Legislation To Reform Oregon’s Harsh Sentencing Law is Finally Gaining Traction in Salem

Ever since Oregon voters enacted Ballot Measure 11 in 1994, thousands of defendants, many with no criminal history, have been sentenced to mandatory minimum prison sentences under a regime whereby the judges have little or no power to issue punishments that are not approved by the prosecutor.

This relic of the era of mass incarceration endures to this very day.  With the exception of juveniles, all meaningful reform proposals have been rebuffed.

Finally, a bill is being considered by the Oregon Legislature which aims to abolish Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentences for certain violent crimes other than murder.

According to Senate Bill 401 sponsor Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), this is just one of four bills seeking to reform Ballot Measure 11 that are being seriously considered during the current session of the Oregon Legislature.

If this bill passes, mandatory minimum sentences would be converted into sentences that can be further evaluated by judges to either add or reduce sentencing in accordance with Oregon’s Sentencing Guidelines. This means that judges will once again be able to exercise discretion in their sentencing decisions.

Prisoners sentenced under the new proposed law will also receive newfound benefits, allowing them to gain credit leading towards early release through treatment among other prison programs. Under Measure 11, prisoners do not have this opportunity, and are forced to serve their full sentence with no reductions for good behavior, nor any chance of early release.

We strongly support all efforts to reduce the cruelty of Ballot Measure 11, and — once again — restore to the judiciary the proper role of judges in sentencing of defendants.

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