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Report: Measure 11 Hasn't "Measured Up" for OR Youth Justice

July 21, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. - Just as the Governor's Commission on Public Safety begins its probe into high corrections costs and their causes in Oregon, comes a new report that says one of the effects of Measure 11 has been to treat more young offenders as adults - with troubling consequences.

Oregon voters passed Measure 11 in the mid-1990s, creating mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes. The new analysis by the Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ) and the Campaign for Youth Justice finds instead that young offenders are giving up some of their rights in plea bargains and ending up with felony convictions. Report co-author and PSJ Associate Director Shannon Wight says even the way young offenders are treated pre-trial varies by county.

"We want Oregon counties to act on what the legislature recently passed, which is laws saying that youth should be held in juvenile detention centers, not in adult jails."

The report also indicates that in some counties, prosecuting attorneys have more power than judges over whether young defendants are charged as adults, and that Measure 11 has not resulted in more uniform sentencing or better public safety.

Craig Prins, executive director of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, expects the new Governor's Commission to look carefully at the report, and at the last 15 years of data under Measure 11.

"I hope it has a big effect. The key question is, who should make decisions in individual cases, and how should they do it? We should use what we've learned in the last 20 years to answer that question."

Prins' group released a report earlier this year that reached some similar conclusions in adult cases, finding that Measure 11 has increased plea bargaining, rather than affecting the time served for many criminal convictions.

The new youth report, "Misguided Measures: The Outcomes & Impacts of Measure 11 on Oregon's Youth," is available at www.safetyandjustice.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR