On Election Day, Oregon voters approved Measure 57, increasing prison time for repeat property and drug criminals and attacking the cause of much of that crime with drug and alcohol treatment for offenders, says the Oregonian. The legislature — mired in a deepening recession that has slashed state revenues — doesn’t have the money to pay for it. Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s proposed 2009-11 budget provides for only half the estimated cost of implementing Measure 57, including about $20 million of the $40 million that was promised for drug and alcohol treatment programs.
“If they give short shrift to treatment, I think they have seriously violated the trust of the voters,” says former legislator Kevin Mannix. The $20 million for treatment “was what we thought was absolutely the best we could do” in the face of a mammoth shortfall that grows worse every month, says Joe O’Leary, Kulongoski’s chief public safety adviser. Measure 57 took effect Jan. 1. The first inmate sentenced under its terms, a 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to a burglary charge, entered the prison system Jan. 29. State prosecutors expect the number of Measure 57 sentences to pick up in the spring, probably around April. The state projects that more than 1,400 Measure 57 inmates will enter the prison system between now and June 2011, the end of the next budget cycle. To house them, officials have put together a patchwork plan that relies heavily on the use of temporary beds at 11 institutions across the state. The beds will go into existing prison housing units, classroom space now used for education and training, health care facilities, even an area at one prison that visitors use for “televisiting” with inmates. “People don’t like to use the word ‘crowding,’ but that essentially is what it is,” says Nathan Allen, a corrections department administrator.