Mannix's New Measure Means 3 More Prisons

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission has published a new study detailing the potential effects of Kevin Mannix's proposed ballot measure that would create minimum sentences for drug and property crimes. The study, commissioned by state legislators, predicts that Oregon will have to build 3 new prisons to cope with a massive influx of inmantes:

From the Statesman Journal:

A measure to require minimum sentences for drug and property crimes could put 4,000 to 6,000 more Oregonians behind bars, a study given to state lawmakers says.

The measure is sponsored by Kevin Mannix, a former lawmaker and Republican governor candidate who wrote 1994's Measure 11, a corresponding measure for more serious crimes.

His new measure is expected to be on the ballot in 2008. It would require minimum sentences of 14 months to 36 months for a host of drug and property crimes.

The projections were drawn up by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission at lawmakers' request.

The commission said inmate populations would rise by about one-third. The current prison population is more than 13,000.

Such an increase would require the construction of three more prisons on the scale of the 1,700-person Junction City lockup the state plans to open in 2012.

"We aren't going to be able to build prisons fast enough to house them," said Sen. Vicki Walker of Eugene.

Read the rest. The study estimates the cost of the new prisons at $400 million dollars.


  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)

    This prison industry is big $$$. Fear is a good marketing tactic. Unfortunately, having higher mandatory sentences does not reduce crime, nor is that the intent of Mannix. The intent is to increase the size of a highly profitable industry at the tax payers expense.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    The real question is: does the sentences fit the crimes? Is there a way to see what Mannix has in mind for sentences for the drug and property crimes?

    Regardless - If it has Mannix's name on it, it's an automatic "NO" in my book.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    What happens if the state government determines that our schools and health care plans need funding and therefore refuse to further bloat the Department of Corrections budget to build more prisons?

    You think they'd really let Tommy the Toddler Twister out early to make room for a petty thief?

    I know that when local jails are filled to capacity they release the least serious offenders even if they haven't finished their 60 days for aggravated littering or whatever. Seems to me that's a pretty decent check on the Mannix "Lock Everyone Up Forever" approach to sentencing.

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    He should team up with libertarian powers-that-would-be to ease the tax burden: contract prison guard jobs to firms like Blackwater! Let the market decide who are effective prison administrators and guards!

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    The problem with measures like this is that the people we hire for their judgment (judges) are prevented from exercising their judgment.

    A prison director ensuring that his prison isn't overfull is not going to be familiar with an inmate's entire trial.

    A judge might have been able to distinguish between a depraved and dangerous drug dealer, and one who got drawn in over his head while trying to provide for his family, and sentenced accordingly. But with mandatory minimum sentences, the judge is not free to make that choice.

    A prison director can't see that level of detail. To the extent that he can, it's via a system that lacks the transparency of our court system.

    A question: why do we have trials, if not to educate the judge and jury about the vagaries of a case, and benefit (as a society) from the knowledge they accumulate over the course of the trial?

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    You can add to your post, Pete, that District Attourneys, because of measure 11, have been dumping any and all charges, plus the kitchen sink, onto a person in hopes that they will plea out to a measure 11 crime, thus aggravating the circumstances for a judge to met out a proper sentence because there is nothing a judge can do about it.

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    contract prison guard jobs to firms like Blackwater! Let the market decide who are effective prison administrators and guards!

    We're already there Andrew. My 77 year old da just quit and my stepma still works at one of the largest private prisons in the US.

    They are chronically understaffed and in violation of the Texas prison code (such as it is). Nepotism, corruption, and cronyism are rampant. Labor law, policies and procedures (again such as they are) are routinely ignored.

    Nationwide, a huge plurality of prisoners are in for non-violent drug crimes, and there are now enough employees in that industry that they have become a discrete lobbying group, and as lobbying groups tend to do, they work to increase their "client base" by arguing for ever more draconian crime and punishment standards.

    Ain't it great to be an American in the new millenium? Once the Boomers die off we will finally reach a symmetry where every citizen in the nation not in prison will be employed in the prison industry. Unless some bright politician decides to offshore this system to say....some Australia-type country not already sewn up by the Brits.

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    I was only half-kidding, and I'm glad that some folks understand that the problems with private militias and "defense contractors" are not isolated to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    David Shichor wrote an excellent book on the topic called "Punishment for Profit: Private Prisons, Public Concerns." I'd recommend it to anyone who thinks our judicial system has only minor flaws.

  • Jonathan Manton (unverified)

    Check out this little excerpt from a 1997 update of campaign successes at the time for The New Party in Little Rock, AK. I like the one-liner quote on building more jails:

    The New Party went 3-for-3 in ballot initiatives and won 14 of 25 races on general election day, showing that it is possible to run campaigns that are progressive and populist.

    In Little Rock, the New Party helped defeat a "jail tax," a permanent sales tax increase to expand the county jail. NP elected city director, Paul Kelly, got off the best line of the campaign: "Fighting crime by building more jails is like fighting cancer by building more cemeteries."

    Kelly and state Rep Michael Booker, also NP, argued that drug prevention and treatment, not the construction of more jail cells, was the proper way to fight crime. The coalition against the jail tax was by far the most multi-racial effort in recent city political memory.

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    It would seem a bargain at $40 million to get Mannix and Sizemore each their own island near Tahiti with the stipulation that they stay there for the remainder of their days.

    Seriously though, the problem of slave labor noted above is real. As soon as you create a profit motive for locking people up, reasons to do so will follow. It's a real danger that government and private industry can become dependent on a steady supply of "prison" (slave) labor and therefore fight against ever working for real rehabilitation or even for lower crime rates.

    The most ironic, if sad, uses of prison labor in the U.S. I've seen is using women prisoners to answer phones for the North Carolina department of tourism. It saved the state $150 grand a year, while of course putting many hard-working, law-abiding families out of work and probably driving some to crime. A perfect, self-sustaining system if ever there was. Don't point any fingers at China on this one.

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    Just to connect a couple of dots -- outsourcing imprisonment to other states seems like a probable response to a minimum sentencing law in lieu of new prisons or while they are being built, rather than releasing prisoner early.

    That would pose enormous hardships on families of people caught up in the net.

    It would be interesting to analyze what categories of inmates would be likely to be released if one assumes that those not under Measure 11 or this new one would be the first ones.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)

    Here's what happened on Measure 11. The DA's first thought they would not plea bargain out of a M11 crime (I kept hearing, "the people have spoken"). Then they realized that there were some cases where the defendant didn't need, and justice didn't demand, a mandatory no release M11 sentence. So DA's formed in house committees and approved cases that could be taken out of M11. They still charged them however, so the DA's ended up with a fantastic amount of leverage.

    Weak cases with sympathetic defendants that should have gone to trial ended up pleading out to avoid the M11 mandatory sentence.

    The bad guys, who did end up with the M11 sentences would have gotten similar sentences under pre M11 sentencing anyway.

    So M11's major accomplishment was to shift a lot of power to DA who could then basically do the sentencing. This did resulted in many more people going to prison than before (since as you can imagine, DA's are harsher at sentencing than the average Judge). But not as many as the projections showed because even the DA's realized that mandatory sentencing as set out in M11 was not a good use of resources and sometimes not even by their standards, just.

    I expect the same if this law passes. It probably won't cost 400 million. Probably "just" $200-300 million or so. But it will result in even more power to sentence transferred from Judges to the DA's and fewer cases going to trial as I get DA's who offer to take certain clients (those who are arguably innocent, or don't deserve a mandatory sentence, or where public safety doesn't demand we use taxpayer dollars housing them) out of this mandatory sentencing scheme and offer an 18 month prison term with good time or programs instead of a 24 or 36 months mandatory, no release prison sentence.

    And the world will go on.

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    I tend to agree with what people have said thus far. Let me add that as we have over the past 10 or so years put less and less emphasis on rehabilitation and more on locking people up as long as possible. The result will eventually backfire as most of those people will be released (other then those who are sentenced to life without the possiblity of parole) and will likely reoffend if no rehabilitation or support is given to them when they are released. This creates a revolving door essentially, which means more and more prisons.

    The other problem is that many of the new prisons built in the last 10 or so years are being built in remote parts of the state (Ontario, Umatilla, etc). There are several reasons for this 1) It's cheaper overall 2) NIMBY's-people don't want prisons in their communities, especially if it's near a city (Wilsonville is the prime example here). Thus, for those who are locked up, it makes it more difficult for them to stay in touch with family, which IS important in terms of rehabilitation.

    Does anyone know has Mannix's measure qualified for the ballot yet or are they still gathering signatures?

  • Liz McC (unverified)

    I'd rather see the money go to schools, esp. the smaller OUS schools, Eastern, Southern, Western.

    This is slightly off topic, however...Why is the only public four-year institution of higher ed in Eastern Oregon being threatened with closure (after years of budget cutbacks,) yet the legislature is looking to build three more prisons?

    Could somebody please explain the logic in this "plan?" Something other than "prisons are big $$$."

    Doesn't crime go up when there are no jobs?? It's time to bring some new industries to OR to create more jobs so more $$$ go into the General Fund. There are so many empty buildings around the PMA (where I live) zoned for manufacturing. Why aren't our legislators getting more creative about reviving our economy with REAL jobs and filling up these buildings? Many are becoming eyesores because they've been empty for so long.

    Is anyone aware of new (or existing) businesses in the state that manufacture equipment for renewable energy, i.e. solar, wind, etc.?

    Thanks. I didn't want to bitch without trying to add at least one positive solution.

  • christine haworth (unverified)
    <h2>kevin mannix, take your money bribery and fall off of the face of the earth, upside down! YOU should be in prision for bribery. (-:</h2>
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