Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED


Justice Reinvestment Summit Remarks
February 16, 2017

Good morning. Thank you all for being here today at the Justice Reinvestment Summit.

Thank you Chair Ball for that kind introduction. Thank you also to the entire team at the Criminal Justice Commission for all your hard in organizing this great event, which has grown to be the largest gathering of public safety stakeholders in Oregon.

When I learned that over 1000 people are registered for this year’s summit, I was amazed and encouraged. It speaks to the great interest around the state in Justice Reinvestment—both in its past successes and in its future.

Since 2013, Oregon has recognized that investments in local communities can reduce the number of people going to prison.  Some of the conversations have been tough, and I know everyone has taken some risks, but the hard work is paying off.

Oregon communities are safer today, compared to the past decade. While we committed to an innovative approach to justice reinvestment, we continue to be challenged by the disproportionate disparities communities of color face in Oregon.

In fact, Oregon has the seventh highest rate of African-Americans incarcerated in state prisons in the country. Nationally, we know disparities within our criminal justice system all too commonly fall along racial and socioeconomic lines.

Addressing these disparities and improving our criminal justice system should not be political issues. Here in Oregon and today in this room, we are demonstrating that expanding opportunities to more Oregonians to reduce recidivism and improve the safety of our communities are efforts all Oregonians support.

Even in a year where we are facing a budget shortfall, my recommended budget includes funding Justice Reinvestment because I recognize how critical it is to our whole public safety system.

But it’s not just about the system as a whole, it is about changing individual lives and empowering more Oregonians to be successful and self-sufficient.

We all make mistakes, which present opportunities to learn and grow. As Governor, I want to make sure our young people have the tools, education, and resources to put those lessons to good use and become gainfully-employed productive members of our communities.

Twenty-two year-old Blaine from Coos County exemplifies this vision. As a teen, Blaine started experimenting with drugs, he fell behind in school, and eventually began committing petty crimes.

Tragically, Blaine’s father — a corrections officer at the local Coos County — committed suicide, which devastated the family and sent Blaine spiraling even further down the path of crime.

It was clear to his probation officer that his criminal lifestyle was being driven by an inability to cope with a major life event. Fortunately, Blaine was young enough that an intervention would really change his trajectory.

He got a second chance, and then a third, and now Blaine has found a job on a ranch tending to horses. He said he has found a deep peace and calm working with the animals, and is working toward a career that will involve animal care.

The services Blaine is now receiving are focused on improving his ability to cope with the tragic loss of his father and his strained relationship with his mother. He is building a network of support and engaged positively with his community.

It’s stories like Blaine’s that really drive home for me the importance of Justice Reinvestment.

Yes, we all appreciate the savings on prison bed costs, but what it really comes down to is the lives we can change by looking at an offender and figuring out how to turn things around for him or her.

I am so grateful to all of the public safety stakeholders here today, because I know that your presence indicates your commitment to this effort.

Please keep fighting the good fight, and know I’ll do all I can to make sure we are continuing to invest in you and your clients.

Thank you!