Prisons: The main question – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Prisons: The main question

Written July 17th, 2013 by

Oregon sealOregon puts a lot of people in prison, and this is very expensive. Legislators including Albany’s Andy Olson, who served on a special commission on sentencing, have been looking for a solution.

The most obvious answer is for fewer people to become criminals. If everybody acted the way the vast majority of law-abiding citizens act, we wouldn’t have to operate 14 state prisons to hold more than 14,000 inmates now. Another solution is to turn fewer actions into crimes, aside from the obvious ones that truly hurt people, from assault, theft and fraud to robbery and homicide.

Yet another is what the 2013 legislature has done by passing House Bill 3194. It’s a long and complicated bill. Among other things it reduces prison sentences for some felonies involving marijuana, driving while suspended or revoked, third degree robbery, and identity theft. It allows inmates to get out two months early when their sentences are up, and it boosts programs to supervise ex-cons.

The changes are expected to reduce the need for prison beds by 700 in the current two-year budget period, and 840 in the next. So building prison No.15, at Junction City, may now be delayed until 2020. If it works, great. But now, how about the main question How do we get fewer people to commit crimes? (hh)

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