New Poll Shows Oregon Voters Strongly Support Comprehensive Sentencing and Corrections Reform

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More than eight out of ten Oregon voters agree with Oregon‘s business leaders that Oregon’s prisons should be put to the cost-benefit test to make sure taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck. That’s the finding of a new poll conducted by the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and The Mellman Group.

These results demonstrate widespread public support for the comprehensive sentencing and corrections reforms contained in HB 3194. They further reinforce the Oregon Business Plan’s recommendations to reform Oregon’s public safety system by curbing prison growth and investing in proven and affordable strategies for reducing crime and repeat offenses.

“Voters are ready for policy reforms that deliver smarter investments in public safety,” said Jeremy Rogers, who manages the Oregon Business Plan.  “It’s time for the Legislature to adopt the policies in HB 3194 and spare taxpayers the cost of building more prison beds in the coming biennium and beyond.”

Over the past decade, Oregon’s prison population has nearly doubled to more than 14,000 inmates. Taxpayers now spend more than $1.3 billion per biennium on corrections. If the state fails to act, the prison population is projected to grow by another 2,000 beds – mostly to accommodate nonviolent offenders – at an additional 10-year taxpayer cost of $600 million.

“When you operate a business, you constantly look at your spending to see what works and what ought to be cut because it isn’t getting the best results,” said Dave Williams, Vice President of Utility Services at NW Natural  and chair of the Citizens Crime Commission. “Oregon is not getting the biggest public safety return by building more prisons. We should focus our tax dollars on programs that make our communities safer.  HB 3194 would help do that.”

By clear margins, voters are more concerned with reducing recidivism than with the number of months an offender spends behind bars. Regardless of political party affiliation, gender, or history as a victim of crime, the poll results indicate, voters want their tax dollars spent more effectively and they support sentencing changes do just that. They favor slowing prison growth and allowing the savings to be reinvested in local public safety strategies, including a tougher probation and parole system and expanded crime victim assistance.

The poll also confirms overwhelming bipartisan support for:

  • Sentencing modifications to Measure 57 that will allow judges to weigh the facts of individual cases instead of imposing mandatory minimum sentences (75% favor).
  • Allowing offenders who are already eligible for time-off for good behavior to earn an additional 10 percent off their sentence for completing programs like literacy training and substance abuse treatment that are designed to reduce recidivism (82% favor).
  • Transitioning offenders out of prison and into re-entry supervision programs three months before the end of their sentence to help them gradually and safely re-enter society (85% favor).

The survey, sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, sampled 600 likely voters in Oregon. It was conducted by telephone May 6-9, 2013. The margin of error for each question is +/-4.0%.

Public Opinion Strategies is widely recognized as the nation’s leading Republican polling firm, listing 15 U.S. senators, six governors, and over 75 members of Congress as clients. The Mellman Group has provided opinion research and strategic advice to political leaders, public interest organizations, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies for over 30 years. Current clients include the majority leader of the U.S. Senate and the Democratic whip in the U.S. House.

What is the Oregon Business Plan?

The Oregon Business Plan is an effort by the state’s business leaders to create 25, 000 new jobs across Oregon each year and raise Oregon‘s per capita income above the national average. The Plan is a collaborative effort among several business leaders and business associations, developed in close partnership with Oregon‘s elected leadership.  

Learn more at www.oregonbusinessplan.org.

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