In March, the Oregon Department of Corrections expects the first of what will become known as its “Measure57 inmates.” The timing of their arrival could not be worse, reports The Oregonian. They will be expensive guests, and they will start showing up in the prison system just as state tax revenues are declining and agencies struggle to comply with an order to slash spending. Measure 57 was referred to voters by lawmakers under pressure to head off a more costly initiative on the ballot.
Overwhelmingly approved in November, the law will impose longer sentences for certain property and drug crimes. It mandates drug and alcohol treatment for inmates with moderate to severe addiction problems who are considered at medium to high risk of committing more crime. Officials estimate Measure 57 will bring an additional 1,600 nonviolent inmates about 2012 and after and hold them for longer periods of time. The measure, with an estimated five-year cost of $411 million, included no funding mechanism. Officials estimate Measure 57 will cost an extra $9 million before June 30 and $153 million in the 2009-11 biennium. Because of Measure 57, the state must borrow $314 million between 2010 and 2017 to finance prison expansion and pay back that money plus $203 million in interest during the next 25 years.