The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in a bipartisan 40-18 vote on Thursday night
SALEM, Ore. - An omnibus bill that will modernize Oregon’s youth justice system is on its way to Governor Kate Brown’s desk after tonight passing Oregon’s House of Representatives with a vote of 40-18. Gov. Brown has been vocal in her support of the bill which was passed by both chambers of the Legislature with the required two-thirds vote.
“This is a smart policy that will vastly improve Oregon’s youth justice system,” said ACLU of Oregon Policy Director Kimberly McCullough. “It is an incredible victory for our state. Justice and accountability are opportunities to heal, not just to punish youth.”
SB 1008 changes the way Oregon tries and sentences youth, shifting the focus to prevention and rehabilitation. The bill includes four key updates:
- Establishes a process where all youth who are convicted in adult court have access to a “second look” hearing halfway 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 remaining incarcerated.
- Places youth accused of any crimes in the juvenile justice system instead of the adult justice system. To move a youth to the adult justice system, prosecutors would need to request a hearing with a judge who would decide where youth are placed.
- Requires a review for youth with long sentences before being transferred to adult prison.
- Eliminates life without parole sentences for youth under age 18.
Advocates say the bill addresses many of the problems caused by Measure 11, passed in 1994, which required harsh penalties causing youth as young as 15 to be charged and sentenced as adults for certain acts.
“Research shows that young people have a great ability to grow and change,” McCullough said. “However, our current approach to charging and sentencing youth was developed 25 years ago. Everything we’ve learned about youth brain development since then contradicts the system set into place by Measure 11. This is a shift to what we know works best.”
SB 1008 received broad support from a diverse coalition of over 40 organizations, including advocacy groups like the ACLU of Oregon, the Oregon Justice Resource Center, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and conservative groups including Right on Crime. In a show of bipartisanship, the bill was carried by Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem) and Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-South Lane and North Douglas Counties).
“Senator Winters and Senator Prozanski have done amazing work to lead the effort to pass a thoughtful policy that was able to garner the two-thirds majority support it needed,” McCullough said. “It is inspiring to see lawmakers working across the aisle to make needed changes to our criminal justice system.”
Over 100 organizations and individuals submitted testimony in support of the bill, including several individuals affected by harsh Measure 11 sentences. Sang Dao was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison after he shot a gun into a car during an act of road rage at age 17. In his testimony and a subsequent op-ed, Dao shared how important the “second look” hearing is, and advocated for the Legislature to pass SB 1008.
“SB 1008 will create a different and better future for youths in Oregon's criminal justice system, one where they can be part of their communities, not lost in our adult prison system,” Dao wrote.
If signed into law, the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The bill is not retroactive.