Oregon could spare itself a continuing run-up in its billion-dollar prison system with changes to sentences, parolee programs, and juvenile justice, a state commission is reporting to Gov. John Kitzhaber, The Oregonian reports. The panel said far more is known now about how to punish and reform offenders since the last thorough reform of sentences in 1989. Proved techniques could drive down recidivism, mitigating the need to build prisons and add thousands more beds.
Money motivated Kitzhaber to put the group to work. State forecasters estimate that Oregon’s prison population will grow by 2,000 over the next decade. The state corrections department said it would need $608 million more in coming years to house that population, including building prisons. Some of that cost can be avoided, the commission said. “The commission has missed the mark by focusing on only one aspect of the criminal justice system: sentencing,” said Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley, president of the Oregon District Attorneys Association. He said current sentencing policies work.