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Longitudinal Study of the Application of Measure 11 and Mandatory Minimums in Oregon

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2011
72 pages
This report analyzes Oregon's Measure 11 (M11), which is a Ballot Measure passed by voters in 1994 that created mandatory minimum prison sentences for 16 violent or sexual offenses.
The original M11 has been amended by the legislature, such that six additional crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences. Whether mandatory minimum sentences have provided the outcomes expected by the chief petitioner is the focus of this report. Regarding incapacitation, M11 did increase the use of incarceration, thus incapacitating offenders by requiring the State to increase the capacity of its prison system to hold offenders for longer prison terms. The increased need for prison beds has been mitigated, however, by prosecutors' application of the measure and mandatory minimum sentencing in general. Regarding deterrence, the effectiveness of M11 cannot be determined, but it is clear that many of those indicted and convicted for M11's specified offenses were not "career criminals," in that they had little or no prior felony record. Regarding the predictability of sentences, the measure did provide predictability for the minority of cases in which the State sought a conviction for crime that carried the sentence prescribed by M11. In 70 percent of the relevant cases, the prosecutor used the "leverage" of the mandatory sentence to obtain a plea bargain to a lesser charge. Regarding comparable sentences, M11 focused on requiring "soft" judges to impose the minimum sentence if a jury found the offender guilty. The current study shows that juries only hear about 15 percent of the cases that involve mandatory minimum sentences; in the other 85 percent of the cases, there is broad disparity in the sentences determined by the plea negotiation process in Oregon's 36 counties. Extensive tables