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April 16, 2019

SB 1008 moves to the House after a 20-10 bipartisan Senate vote

PORTLAND, Ore. — Today, the state Senate approved a bill that makes key reforms to youth sentencing in Oregon. The 20-10 bipartisan vote on SB 1008 moves the bill to the Oregon House.

“How we treat our children is what our hallmark will be,” Senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem) said before the vote. “What’s being said this morning is there should be an opportunity for those individuals to have a chance to better their lives. They should have the opportunity to grow and become contributors to our society.”

Governor Kate Brown has already signaled her support for the reforms. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon Youth Authority Director Joe O’Leary, Oregon Department of Corrections Director Colette Peters, and many others testified in support of the reforms in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. More than 40 organizations have signed onto a coalition in support of the bill.

“Youth belong in the youth justice system unless a judge decides to transfer them to the adult court,” says ACLU of Oregon Policy Director Kimberly McCullough, . “Studies show youth who are placed in the adult justice system are over thirty percent more likely to commit additional crimes upon release than those in the youth justice system. SB 1008’s reforms will improve our justice system for the youth in the system, and it will keep our communities safer. We should shift to what works.”

The reforms in SB 1008 reflect research that has improved understanding of adolescent brain development, as well as what works to keep communities safer. SB 1008—which consolidates policies that started as separate bills—would:

  • Place youth accused of any crimes in the youth justice system instead of the adult justice system. To move a youth to the adult justice system, prosecutors would need to request a special hearing with a judge who would decide where youth are placed.
  • Establish a process where all youth who are convicted in adult court have access to a "Second Look" hearing half way through their sentence. At that hearing, a judge determines whether the youth has taken responsibility for their crime and been rehabilitated, which would allow the remainder of their sentence to be served under community-based supervision, rather than being incarcerated.
  • Require an additional review before a youth with a long sentence would be transferred to an adult prison. Currently, Oregon youth who are given long sentences can stay in a youth prison until age twenty-five and are then transferred to an adult prison. This proposal would allow a judge to determine if the twenty-five-year old has been sufficiently rehabilitated to transfer them to community-based supervision, rather than adult prison.
  • Eliminate life without parole sentences for youth in Oregon by establishing a process to ensure that anyone convicted of a crime when they are under eighteen years old receives a chance for parole after fifteen years of incarceration. 61 percent of Oregonians support this proposal.

“SB 1008 is based on best practices, including creating an enhanced victim notification process and access to community-based victim services,” says Shannon Wight, deputy director of Partnership for Safety and Justice. “This bill would improve outcomes for youth convicted of crime and crime victims.”

A March public opinion poll conducted by GBAO (formerly GBA Strategies) on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon showed consensus support for youth justice reform across the ideological and political spectrum in Oregon. An overwhelming majority of Oregonians - 88 percent - want the youth justice system to focus on prevention and rehabilitation more than punishment and incarceration, including 80 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Independents, and 96 percent of Democrats. The poll also found Oregonians strongly favored the reforms in SB 1008.

More information about the bill is online here

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