What Needs to Change in Oregon’s Criminal Justice System

As Oregonians, we are concerned about the ever-increasing size, cost, and ineffectiveness of our criminal justice system. From the mid–1990s through the following decade, Oregon’s prison system has been among the fastest growing in the country. This has cost billions of dollars for both construction and operation.

Each time Oregon builds a prison, it borrows the money, mortgaging the state’s ability to pay for vital services over the next 20 to 25 years. This trend is alarming especially because it has been at the expense of programs proven to reduce future crime at a fraction of the cost of building more prisons. Cuts to drug and alcohol treatment, prison-based education and juvenile intervention programs have actually reduced the state’s ability to maintain public safety. Because over 95% of all state prisoners will eventually return to the community, it is in everyone’s best interest to create a system that actually prepares people to succeed when they return home.

We are also concerned with the lack of attention and funding for support services for crime survivors. Services for victims of domestic and sexual violence are funded at less than half the amount that's needed to provide the most basic emergency services to everyone in need. Likewise, funding for system-based Victim Assistance Providers is inadequate, and crime victims pay the price. Crime victims have rights in the justice system, but these rights are not always enforced. People who have survived crime deserve better – survivors deserve to be treated with respect and receive accurate information, restitution, and culturally-competent services to help them rebuild their lives.

We believe it is time for a more effective and fiscally-responsible approach to public safety – an approach that focuses on prevention, curbs the unsustainable growth of our prison system, invests in evidence-based programs that are proven to reduce crime and save money, and strengthens support systems and services for crime survivors. Crime and public safety are complicated social issues and we need smart solutions not oversimplified approaches promoted by fear or frustration.

Partnership for Safety and Justice works hard to ensure our values drive our work. And we search for policies that embody all of our values simultaneously. We strive to ensure Oregon’s approach to public safety is based on the principles of safety, prevention, accountability, healing, rehabilitation, and justice.