Governor to Sign Bill Making Sweeping Changes to State’s Youth Justice System

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown intends to sign a sweeping Measure 11 reform bill passed by the Oregon Legislature this session at a public event this morning in Portland.

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the June Key Delta Community Center in North Portland. Senate Bill 1008 makes a number of changes to the state’s juvenile justice system that supporters believe will make communities safer, reduce victimization, and improve rehabilitation opportunities for youth.

“This legislation will serve troubled youth in our community for generations to come, reshaping lives and putting them on a path towards success,” Gov. Brown says. “Data has informed the path forward. By changing the sentencing guidelines for youth offenders, our communities will be safer. And more Oregonians will have better chances of using their time in custody to make a turnaround in their lives.”

The legislation was supported by individuals and organizations in the criminal justice community, including Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA), the Board of Parole, the Oregon Department of Corrections, county juvenile directors, and numerous judges, attorneys and advocacy organizations.

The legislation represents the most significant reform to Oregon’s juvenile justice system since 1995, when Measure 11 took effect and OYA was created. Since then, OYA has been on a path of transformation, moving from a model of secure facilities that provide some treatment and education, to a model of treatment and education facilities that are also secure. This law will help bring the entire juvenile justice system in line with that transformation and be more consistent with what research indicates is most effective for protecting the public and maximizing good outcomes.

The legislation makes multiple changes to laws related to the sentencing of youth offenders, including:

  • Eliminates the automatic waiver of kids into the adult justice system and requires judges to make determinations whether children should be tried and sentenced as adults;
  • Extends eligibility for “second look” hearings, which occur halfway through youth sentences and allow judges to order supervised release for youth if it is determined they have been rehabilitated significantly, do not pose danger to the community and the youth will be better served by release rather than further incarceration;
  • Allows transfer hearings for youth aging out of the Oregon Youth Authority and into adult prison with remaining sentences fewer than two years, when appropriate; and
  • Addresses the constitutional problem identified by the United States Supreme Court by eliminating automatic life without parole sentences for youth and making them eligible for parole hearings after serving 15 years.
  • The measure had bipartisan support, most notably by the late Sen. Jackie Winters, a Salem Republican with a long history of advocating for justice reform, who succumbed in her battle with lung cancer shortly after the bill passed in the House. However, other Republicans led an effort that would have referred the bill to voters, on the grounds that the people had originally approved it in 1994, with 66 percent in favor, and an attempted repeal of the measure six years later failed miserably, with nearly three-quarters of Oregonians opposed.

    The House motion to refer the legislation to the ballot failed by a vote of 23 to 35.

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