By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Smart reform of our criminal justice system is possible. With rates of incarceration in Oregon at historic highs, policymakers are turning to address an issue that the ACLU has been litigating and advocating on for decades. We can create a criminal justice system that is both fair and effective and there is real momentum to do so now.

Last week, Governor Kitzhaber’s Commission on Public Safety reconvened in Salem, welcoming new members and charting out a work plan for the months leading up to the 2013 legislative session. The Commission’s charge is clear: in the face of a state budget in crisis and unceasing growth in prison population, find smart and sustainable ways to reduce corrections spending and protect public safety.

To reach this goal, the Commission will build on its 2011 Report, which published a few key findings. Among them, rates for violent and property crime in Oregon are at their lowest in decades, yet Oregonians are not aware of this decrease. And Oregon should more effectively balance incarceration with resources to support offender re-entry services.

Oregon is poised to join a growing list of states around the nation working to overhaul their corrections policy and spending. To help the Commission learn from the work of other states, the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States has committed to supporting efforts in Oregon.  From research and data-analysis, to policy recommendations, to public engagement and education, Pew will contribute significant time and resources to finding the best way forward for Oregon.

The ACLU of Oregon is closely monitoring the work of the Commission and will work in the coming months to influence both the final recommendations and their implementation in the legislature.


Additional Resource

Smart Reform Is Possible: States Reducing Incarceration Rates and Costs While Protecting Communities: Since President Richard Nixon first announced the "War on Drugs" 40 years ago, the United States has adopted "tough on crime" criminal justice policies that have given it the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world.