RECENTLY ON TOL:
- A tumblr site dedicated to the people and places that make up Oregon and Southwest Washington.
- Send me an email if there is activity in this thread.
A poll asking people whether they support delaying Measure 57 came up briefly on today's show. You can read the summary or more detailed results (pdf). It was done on behalf of the Partnership for Saftey and Justice. We didn't have time to talk with executive director David Rogers in detail about the poll during the show. But here's what I was wondering — and put forth now for David:
- There are so many ways to describe the financial impact of Measure 57. Why did you choose to cite the "$300 million to begin building more prisons" in the poll?
- According to the financial impact statement about this measure, that borrowing would happen between 2010 and 2017. Is it appropriate to imply that amount would be incurred during this budget crisis?
- What does the "most costly parts" of Measure 57 refer to?
- One question implies that the savings would be used for drug treatment programs. What evidence do you have that it would?
- The question about treating 15, 16, and 17 year old offenders more leniently seems to be unrelated. Why did you include it?
- How do you see the debate now about delaying Measure 57 as influencing the debate about sentencing in the longer term?
- How much store do you set by a poll showing people prefer to delay Measure 57 by a margin of six percent, when the margin of error is 4.4%?
David Rogers promises to reply below! Stay tuned...
UPDATE, 5/23/09 at 9:25am:
Rogers replied by email yesterday afternoon. Here it is:
1 & 2) The financial cost of new prison construction is fairly complicated and the $300 million figure mentioned in the poll question is actually half of what is the likely cost. If Measure 57 was put on hold there is a high liklihood the Junction City prison construction goes off-line. The construction cost of that prison has been estimated at about $300 million by the Dept of Corrections (DOC).
But it is important to point out that when DOC talks about the cost of prison construction they always leave off the cost of interest. But let's get real, tax payers pay off the interest and it is a huge amount of money.
Everytime we build prisons, Oregon sell bonds to pay for it. Then we pay the borrowed money back along with interest over the next 20 years. So that means $300 million of construction costs turns into $600 millions to tax payers over the long haul.
This is no small matter. Because we have been on a prison building boom in the past 15 years, the amount to interest is huge and could be paying for more productive things like job creation in rural communities. Just to give you a sense of the numbers, in this current biennium Oregon is spending $130 million just to pay the interest on PAST prison construction. Wow! That is a lot of money.
So just because the debt is spread out doesn 't mean it doesn't have a huge impact. All that said, the real expense is operation. And as soon as a new prison goes on-line then the DOC budget really expands. We can debate about which numbers to use, but the impact on the huge budget is undeniable.
3) There has been a strong ad-hoc coalition that has successfully made the point to legislators that we must protect money for community-based treatment and mental health services. The return on that investment is stong in regard to crime reduction and helping Oregonians put thier lives back together. Our advocacy success is evidenced in the Co-chiars recommened budget released on Monday. They have tried to protect treatment as much as possible. Their budget also assumes that we can find about $78 million of savings in corrections. Although there is no absolute gurantee that treatment dollars would be protected, without those corrections savings a lot of things are in jeopardy of being cut.
4) The question about Second Look for youth was included in the poll because Partnership for Safety and Justice has been working very hard at changing the way youth are automatically treated as adults in the cirminal justice system in Oregon via Measure 11. We wanted to know if there was public support for the concept. All the research from around the country shows that trying and sentencing youth as adults is bad public safety policy. Youth treated as adults are more likely to commit future crime than comparable youth treated in our juvenile justice system. Oregon has it wrong in this respect which is tragic and something we want to change.
5) I think the debate about 57 is useful for getting people to think about what makes good public safety policy. Oregon has got to come to terms with the un-sustainable growth in our prison budget. We think people are waking up and realizing there are smarter more cost effective ways of maintaining public safety.
6) I think the polling is helpful but there were a lot of other questions worth asking. Polling is expensive and ultimately I think good policy rationale and research should influence legislators more than polling. I won't be repetitive, but delaying and modfiying Measure 57 makes good sense regardless of how it polls. People can poke holes in the value of the poll but assessing public opinion based on one-time elections results last November when the world has fundamentally changed since is pretty questionable as an counter approach.
Comments are now closed.