Oregon’s Measure 11 Sentencing Reform

Implementation and System Impact

by Nancy Merritt, Terry Fain, Susan Turner

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Abstract

In 1994, Oregon voters passed Measure 11, which imposed long mandatory prison terms for 16 designated violent and sex-related offenses, prohibited “earned time,” and provided for mandatory waiver of youthful offenders to adult court. Proponents of the measure felt that it would improve public safety by both deterring future criminal behavior and increasing the length of time that serious felons spend in prison, while opponents believed that it would adversely affect criminal justice system operations and reduce system integrity.

This report presents the findings of a study of the implementation and outcomes of Measure 11 across the state as a whole and within three counties, undertaken at the request of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. It draws upon state-level databases and interviews with state and county stakeholders to answer key questions about how the measure was developed; its relationship to the existing sentencing practices in the state; impacts on the types of sentences imposed, admissions to prison, and sentence lengths imposed; and changes in sentencing practices for both adults and youths.

The analyses presented show trends in crime and its prosecution in Oregon before and after implementation of Measure 11. The measure has increased the length of prison sentences for offenders convicted of serious crimes, but fewer offenders have been sentenced for these crimes. This shift may have resulted from the use of prosecutorial discretion and the downgrading of cases deemed inappropriate for the mandatory minimum penalties. Some of the changes in sentencing and case processing practices were planned system changes, but others were unplanned and are not fully understood. The report concludes with suggestions for further research that can provide more-definitive answers to the questions posed.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Evolution of Sentencing Reform

  • Chapter Three

    History of Criminal Sentencing in Oregon

  • Chapter Four

    Methodology

  • Chapter Five

    Case Processing Before and After Measure 11

  • Chapter Six

    Case Processing Before and After Measure 11 for Youthful Offenders in Oregon

  • Chapter Seven

    Case Processing Before and After Measure 11 in Three Oregon Counties

  • Chapter Eight

    Crime Rates Before and After Measure 11

  • Chapter Nine

    Findings and Concluding Remarks

  • Appendix A

    Text of Measure 11 Legislation

  • Appendix B

    Subsequent Measure 11-Related Legislation

  • Appendix C

    Partial Text of SB 1049

  • Appendix D

    Rank Ordering of M11-Eligible Offenses

  • Appendix E

    Study County Characteristics

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND’s Public Safety and Justice for the National Institute of Justice.

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