JUSTICE REINVESTMENT SUMMIT
APRIL 6, 2015
Good morning. I am so pleased to be here today to kick off this important event.
In 2013, after years of hard and good work by many of you in this room, the Oregon Legislature passed a sentencing reform bill.
Tough choices were made in an effort to offer reasonable alternatives to unchecked growth in Oregon’s prison population.
The positive results we are seeing now are in large part due to that work, and I am grateful that we have avoided, for the foreseeable future, the need to build more prison beds.
But we all know that reducing the prison population through sentencing reform was not the best part of House Bill 3194.
The best part was a vision to reinvest criminal justice system savings in prevention programs that further reduce the numbers of Oregonians going to prison.
The fund supported innovative approaches to prevention, informed by good data.
It hopefully has provided — and will continue to provide — an opportunity for you to try new programs and change the way you manage offenders in your communities.
Before turning to a life in politics, I was a family law attorney at Youth, Rights & Justice. In dependency cases, I worked with families who were often being torn apart because of the parents’ struggles with criminal behavior.
Engaging those families in the appropriate programs was key to their success, and when that happened, I felt it was of benefit to both the parents and their children in preventing future criminal behavior.
As Oregon’s Secretary of State, I completed an audit in 2013 of the Department of Corrections and the effect substance abuse treatment had on the highest-risk offenders.
The audit concluded that resources spent on substance abuse treatment for the highest-risk offenders saves millions of dollars in incarceration expenses in the future.
Of course, the audit recognized that this is dependent in part on the resources available to the counties to invest, and I know that many counties continue to struggle.
That is why it is more important than ever for us to focus on the highest return on our investment of these scant resources, focusing on programs that deliver the best outcomes for our communities.
I know that many of you out there are wondering about that very thing: the resources.
I cannot stand here today and commit to a specific number that will be in the final budget, but I can say that what you’re doing matters, it’s important.
I will work hard with the legislature during budget negotiations to ensure that these reinvestments are meaningful and worthy.
I am told the other question on most minds is whether or not I will honor former Governor Kitzhaber’s agreement with some of the stakeholders regarding further sentencing reform.
Just like past legislatures cannot bind future legislatures, a former governor cannot bind a future one. But let me be clear: I do not, today, have any plans to re-open a discussion around major sentencing reform.
If you all stay the course, and if the prison population continues to decline, we won’t have to have that discussion for quite some time.
I do not have any intention of undoing the great work you’ve done and continue to do.
I want to acknowledge what I believe to be the most exciting part of this initiative: your collaboration within your local communities and with the state.
I was very interested to hear about the Regional Implementation Committees and the quarterly updates you receive from the Criminal Justice Commission.
But more than that, I am hearing from counties that this project has brought to the table all of the stakeholders within the criminal justice system, putting aside philosophical differences to work toward a common goal.
The extent to which you are engaged is unprecedented, and I applaud you all.
I look forward to watching this process unfold, and learning more about the great work you are doing in your communities.