The surge of thieves and drug dealers expected to hit Oregon prisons because of tougher crime laws has been pushed off as much as four years, potentially saving taxpayers millions and forestalling construction of one new prison, reports The Oregonian. Legislators froze most of the tougher provisions of voter-approved Measure 57, which targets career property felons and drug dealers.
Legislators cut nearly one-third from the $74 million bill facing them to house the additional inmates. Prosecutors say lawmakers overreacted to the cost estimates of Measure 57 and are hindering their efforts to lock up criminals. State forecasters now say that even if the law had been left alone, the bubble of inmates created by the new crime laws would have been smaller than once thought. A year ago, the state forecast that the prison population would hit 15,000 this year. A new forecast said the prisons, which hold about 14,000, won’t hit the higher mark until 2014.