U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Oregon's Get Tough Sentencing Reform: A Lesson in Justice System Adaptation

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2006 Pages: 5-36
Nancy Merritt; Terry Fain; Susan Turner
Date Published
February 2006
32 pages
This study examined changes in case processing, prison admissions, and sentence lengths for offenders sentenced under Oregon's Measure 11 (passed in 1994), which sets mandatory minimum sentencing for selected offenses.
The study found that sentencing and case-processing practices have changed for offenses addressed under Measure 11 (M11), i.e., serious violent and sex-related offenses. The length of prison sentences has increased for offenders convicted of M11-eligible offenses; however, since passage of the measure, fewer offenders have been sentenced for these offenses, and a greater proportion of offenders have been sentenced for M11-alternate offenses. The analyses suggest that this shift has resulted from the use of prosecutorial discretion in downgrading cases that, although technically M11-eligible, were not deemed appropriate for the associated mandatory minimum penalty. The authors conclude that the implementation of M11 followed a model of adaptive rather than strict implementation, due to the adverse and unreasonable effects that a strict implementation of M11 would have on the criminal justice system. Data for this study were obtained from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, which maintains data on all reported sentences for felony offenses in Oregon. Data are available for 1993 through 1999. Data were obtained on criminal history, method of disposition, county of sentencing, date of sentencing, offense codes, sentence type and length, and demographic characteristics of offenders. In addition to enabling trend analysis in sentence type and length before and after M11, the data permitted gauging the impact of prior criminal history on sentencing and the determination of the disposition method (plea versus trial) before and after the passage of M11. The other data source was the Oregon Department of Corrections, which maintains data for each case under its supervision. Data were available from 1990 through 1999. 4 figures, 3 tables, 23 notes, and 29 references