Oregon spends a bigger percentage of its state budget to lock up criminals and supervise their parole than any other state, says the new Pew study on prison growth. If Oregon voters approve one of two tough-on-crime measures on the November ballot, that distinction will become more pronounced, reports The Oregonian. The main reason for Oregon’s inmate population growth from 4,000 to 13,500 over three decades is Measure 11, a 1994 initiative that set mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes. It is responsible for 28 percent of today’s prison population.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski “doesn’t believe that the only way to reduce crime is by just building more prisons,” said a spokeswoman. November ballot will give voters a choice of two measures, but both increase penalties for drug dealers, burglars, car thieves, and identity thieves. Oregon’s incarceration rate is below the national average. Republican activist Kevin Mannix said state costs are high because of well-compensated corrections officers. He said Oregon prisons are among the nation’s most drug-free. Oregon prison officials noted that the state funnels about 20 percent of its corrections budget directly to counties for jails and parole.