Sponsored by Oregon Business

Public safety reform offers better return on investment

| Print |  Email
Opinion
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

 

By Ryan Deckert, Nik Blosser and J. David Zehntbauer | OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS

If what we strive for as a state is education over incarceration, now is the time for business leaders and elected officials to face Oregon’s expensive public safety system with the same courage and forward-thinking that has made Oregon famous in the health care reform arena.

Oregon’s prison population has grown by nearly 50% — to over 14,000 inmates in the last decade. Taxpayers now spend more than $1.3 billion each biennium to pay for corrections. Leaders of large and small businesses across the state need to reexamine this expensive system and look for proven, cost-effective ways to slow this growth in incarceration that is draining more and more money away from other public safety and policy priorities.

Recent trends in corrections growth threaten our leadership position among the states and our ability to deliver citizens the best possible public safety results. The state projects our prison population will grow by an additional 2,200 beds in the next 10 years. This prison growth, fueled mostly by nonviolent offenders, will cost taxpayers an additional $600 million for the construction of new prisons during this period.

To address these escalating and unsustainable costs, the Governor appointed the Commission on Public Safety, a group comprised of a bi-partisan group of legislators, business leaders and law enforcement.  The Commission determined that although Oregon has led the nation in effective corrections policies, we are losing ground on some of these achievements over the past 10 years. 

Specifically, a public safety system focused primarily on increased incarceration is less cost-effective than evidence-based, alternative options. Today, Oregon offenders are staying in prison longer than they have at any point in the last decade, despite a growing body of research that points to diminishing public safety returns of longer prison sentences.  Some offenders are more likely to be successful when they are held accountable in community-based corrections programs; where a combination of accountability to the judicial system coupled with needed interventions like drug and alcohol treatment can be effectively implemented. Since 2000, 17 states making similar changes have reduced their incarceration rate and have also seen a drop in crime.

HB 3194 is the bill that encompasses the policy recommendations of the Commission on Public Safety. It represents the sound financial practices that successful Oregon businesses use:  identifying smart ways to cut costs and reinvesting those savings into products that will bring a return on investment. HB 3194 finds savings through smart, evidence based, cost effective programs and reinvests those savings back into community-based programs proven to reduce recidivism, giving us a better return on our public safety investment. Oregon’s public safety system can be more effective from a public policy and cost savings stand point by utilizing appropriate judicial discretion in sentencing, using cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment tools in crafting sentences and reducing recidivism. 

Oregon needs to continue to create safe communities for business, and for our families, employees and customers. In order to continue on this path, Oregon must get smarter about how we punish, rehabilitate, and re-enter offenders into our society so they do not commit more crimes.  Oregonians and our legislators should support the public safety reform package that is before the legislature in HB 3194.

Ryan Deckert is president of the Oregon Business Association. Nik Blosser is president of Celilo Group Media and chair of the Oregon Business Association Board of Directors. J. David Zehntbauer is a partner with Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue.

Editor's Note:  Oregon Business accepts opinion pieces on topics relevant to the state's business community. See Op-Ed submission guidelines here.

 

Comments   

 
Guest
0 #1 RE: Public safety reform critical to stemGuest 2013-04-30 18:14:26
I agree. My son received 3 felony charges for performing a senior prank last year that ultimately caused no damage to persons or property. If found guilty of these charges he will start his adult life in the states prison system while child molesters and violent criminals are being released from the jail in Eugene. I believe that there are better ways to spend tax payer dollars than on a trial for a childhood prank.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Nuclear fingerprints

March 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

At Oregon State University, a 21st century version of the bad dream — nuclear terrorism — is alive and well. This winter, the Department of Nuclear Physics and Radiation Health Physics created a new interdisciplinary graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics, a Sherlock Holmes-sounding program that aims to identify how and where confiscated nuclear and radiological materials were created.


Read more...

Live, Work, Play: Amen Teter

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Catching up with Amen Teter, Portland-based global director of action sports for Octagon Olympics & Action sports talent agency.


Read more...

Beyond Bodegas

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Five years in the making, the Portland Mercado — the city’s first Latino public market — will celebrate its grand opening April 11. A $3.5 million public-private partnership spearheaded by Hacienda CDC, the market will house 15 to 20 businesses in the food, retail and service sectors. It has some big-name funders, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The project goals are equally ambitious: to improve cross-cultural understanding, alleviate poverty and spur community economic development. 


Read more...

5 schools helping students crack code

The Latest
Thursday, January 29, 2015
codeduthumbnailBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

As the costs of college mount, and as employer demand for software developers soars, coding schools and classes are popping up everywhere.


Read more...

City announces plans for Portland summer-league baseball team

News
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
IMG 3888BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Baseball is returning to Portland and city officials are hoping economic opportunity comes with it.


Read more...

The week journalism died

Linda Baker
Sunday, February 15, 2015
deadjournalismthumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

As the investigation against the governor moves forward, those of us in the news business should reflect on our own potential for subverting the democratic process.


Read more...

Emperor of the Sea

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan

Pacific Seafood, one of the world’s largest processors, is rebranding as a more transparent and consumer-friendly operation. A controversial CEO and monopoly accusations from coastal fishermen complicate the tale.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS