Pew report on the economic consequences of incarceration

Paul Gronke

A story in today's New York Times highlights the economic consequences of incarceration. Former inmates have substantially lower incomes and experience low mobility (meaning they are unable to move to better jobs). (Full Pew report is here.)

Incarceration does not only impact inmates, of course, but also devastates their families.

Of course, if you do the crime, you should do the time, but is this really the time to pass Measure 73?

Let's ignore the direct costs to the state budget, estimated to be $60 million in the first four years and $18-$29 million annually after that.

The state is facing its worst economic downturn in decades. Is this the time to pass a measure that would dramatically expand the underclass in our state and add thousands to our welfare rolls?

Measure 73 is bad criminal justice policy, bad economic policy, and bad family policy. I know bleeding heart Democrats will oppose it, but how can fiscally conservative Republicans support it?

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    I kinda like to have something to compare the proposed sentencing guidelines to. Can you post the current guidelines?

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      Here is the page where you can find the grid, and some implementation stuff.

      The DUII change isn't going to change the length of incarceration. In most counties that I know of, a typical sentence for a third DUII within the last 10 years is 120-180 days in jail. M-73 requires only a 90 day minimum. But, it does make it a felony rather than a misdemeanor, and shifts the cost of the incarceration from the County to the State. (Good for counties bad for the State)

      The Sex offender changes, may or may not effect many defendants. It depends on how the DA's implement it. And, you have to remember, in worst case situations (like the often times mentioned baby rapists) Courts generally have many many more than 25 years to work with anyway, and they will usually use it.

      The main reason this measure is bad is that mandatory minimums are generally a bad idea. We should be doing less, not more mandatory minimums. If there is a problem, change the sentencing guidelines so Judges can impose longer sentences if warranted.

      But that's not the real goal of mandatory minimums. Prosecutors like them for two reasons. First, they don't thing any Judge uses jail and prison enough. Second, these laws shift power to the prosecutor and away from the court, where it belongs. Prosecutors can use mandatory minimums as a stick in questionable cases to get someone to waive their right to a trial and accept a shorter sentence in order to avoid the possibility of conviction. It makes the prosecutor the final decision maker in what is the appropriate length of sentences.(See reason number one above) that should be, and historically has been, a Judge's role.

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        Agreed with everything you said.

        Q: How would the public go about changing the sentencing guidelines for a specific offense. For example, lets say the public is sick of DUII's and doesn't think that 120-180 days is enough for a 3rd conviction. What recourse do we have? (Other than measures like this)

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          Talk to your legislators. Write letters to the editor. Engage in the political process. Get folks who agree with you elected. Knock on doors. Raise money. Form a PAC. Hire a lobbyist.

          As someone who's worked with legislators, I know it doesn't take many folks speaking out to get noticed.

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            Your way takes time and money, things most people are unwilling to part with for something like this (not saying good or bad, just thats the way it is). Seems like the initiative process requires less of the average person. (you know we can be lazy unless we are voting for American Idol :-) )

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        Correction. On the felony DUII. Because it is elevated to a felony, it can be sentenced on the grid, meaning the presumptive sentence would be at least 13-14 months in prison, though the court COULD do a downward dispositional daparture, give the defendant probation but in that case, would be required to impose at least 90 days in jail, and it could be up to one year. So, if the courts regularly did a downward dispositional departure to local jail instead of prison, there may be little effect on time in custody. BUT, if they kept to the presumptive grid, there would be more people sent to prison. In either event, it appears the State pays for the incarceration however.

        Aren't mandatory sentences and guidelines fun! Just imagine explaining this to clients behind bars, going through withdrawals, and with less than stellar cognitive skills.

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    When are we going to see the day when these ballot initiatives are required to submit credible cost estimates? This measure is prime example of something that passes easily, who doesn't want sex offenders locked up? But the cost to individual citizen has to be part of that decision making.

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    Bill, what part of the current financial impact analysis process do you think is broken?

    Do you think the $18.1 to $29.1 million/year cost estimates to the state are wrong? Or the analysis that local governments will pay $3.2 to $4.6 million less, as costs are shifted to the state?

    Do you think different people should be involved in the financial impact analysis, or that the analysis should be more prominent on the ballot?

    It's a costly measure.

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    Paul, Why do you hate the Oregon workers?

    The more we create draconian penalties and new crimes, the more people we put in jail, the more prison guards, food suppliers, and customers of cheap prison labor will benefit.

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    Why would you let real statistics and analysis get in the way of knee-jerk policymaking via referendum?

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    Jonathan and Pat, damn, you got me on that one!

    I just like to think there are some things that are actually business friendly, economic growth friendly policies that should appeal to the Dems and the Reps--like having a health care system that allows our companies to compete on an even playing field, not wasting tax dollars incarcerating far too many people, or stewarding our environmental resources.

    Sadly, such crazy thinking is not allowable in the current political climate.

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    I believe this web site has been mentioned on BO before, but it is worth mentioning in regards to this topic: Healthy Democracy Oregon

    A simple majority of selected Oregon panelists agree that this is bad policy. It's a great starting point for understanding a new measure... I hope this Citizens' Initiative Review continues!

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