Oregon Sheriffs and Police Chiefs oppose it. District Attorneys throughout the state have said it's a bad idea. Crime Victims United stands against it and in a recent poll 72% of Oregonians's think it's a bad idea. Willamette Week published an article recently that points out the many fallacies involved in the proposal, yet Governor John Kitzhaber has hired an "army" of lobbyists to push hard for House Bill 3194 which would remove substantial provisions of Oregon's Mandatory Minimum Sentence law.
In a live interview this morning on KAST 1370, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said that the Governor appears to subscribe to something the DA calls the "Guns or Butter" argument in that the Governor has put it to the state legislature that you can have schools or you can have prisons, but you can't have both. Marquis disagrees. Two weeks ago Marquis appeared before the Clatsop County Board Of Commissioners talking about HB 3194 and Commissioner Nebeker said she didn't understand the thinking on the Governor's part and said she thinks you have to have both schools and prisons and sees no reason why that can't happen.
Marquis says that there is a misconception about how much it costs to house prisoners and how much it costs to educate a child. When he speaks before groups he will ask which is more expensive and about 75% of the auience will say it's more expensive to house prisoners. This is made worst by the Governor's statement that it costs $30,000 a year to get a person in prison but it only costs $10,000 a year to educate a child. Marquis says the statement is misleading because Oregon prisons are now holding about 14,500 prisoners while there are 562,000 children that need that education in the K-12 system.
Marquis points to the Willamette Week article in which the Governor is quoted saying that Oregon can no longer support what he termed the relentless growth in the Department of Corrections and says this is why we can't adequately fund education. The problem with the statement is that the growth he refers to is not "relentless". In fact, while most people don't know this, crime in Oregon has decreased significantly. Prison populations have not grown significantly larger. What has grown is the cost of DOC personnel.
Marquis says State Senator Betsy Johnson has taken a courageous stand against the Governor on this issue and she has the power to back it up. Marquis says he is concerned about the "army" of lobbyists the Governor has hired to push the proposal in the House. It would require two-thirds vote to pass HB3194 because it would overturn measures 11 and 57 which were approved overwhelmingly by voters.
For more information and more on Marquis perspective go HERE where the DA maintains his website.