In an editorial, the Oregonian criticizes state politicians for failing to enact prison policy reforms, choosing instead to “kick the can down the road.” The paper said negotiations have broken down even over a trio of bills to adjust probation policies, reclassify certain felonies and take other steps to save a modest $20 million. Instead, lawmakers are moving to implement voter-approved Measures 57 and 73 and lock up tens of millions of more dollars a biennium for corrections.
The paper writes, “Of course, some lawmakers are posturing about cutting corrections spending right along with other state services. But most of that is disingenuous, ridiculous, or both — lawmakers huffing and puffing about the cost of supplying inmates with soda pop or salt and pepper. The prisons shut off the soda in 2008 and 2009, and, we hate to break this to lawmakers, it will take more than emptying the salt shakers to slow one of the fastest-growing budgets in state government. Two things drive Oregon prison costs — sentencing policies and the salaries and benefits of corrections employees — and lawmakers are afraid to confront either one.(). Are you satisfied with the prevailing wisdom in this state that it is always easier, always better, to cut short a school year — or lay off hundreds of teachers — than it is rethink a prison sentence?”