The Department of Corrections budget for Oregon’s 2009-11 Biennial Budget is $1,418,480,000
A different Approach is Needed:
As Oregonians, we are concerned about the ever-increasing size and cost of our prison system. We are dismayed that Oregon is now spending more general fund dollars on its prison system than on higher education. This is not the future we envision for Oregon.
We have seen the budget for the prison system skyrocket in the past 15 years. The state has been on a prison building boom. Each time Oregon builds prisons, it borrows the money to pay for construction, mortgaging the state’s ability to pay for vital services over the next 20 to 25 years. In the 2007-09 biennium, Oregon taxpayers paid over $130 million just on the interest for past prison construction.
Oregon’s prison build-up is even more alarming because it has been at the expense of the 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.
We believe it is time for a more effective and fiscally responsible approach to public safety – an approach that focuses on stopping the growth of our prison system and investing in evidence-based programs that are proven to reduce crime, assist crime victims, and save money. If Oregon shifts its public safety strategy, not only will we make advances in crime reduction but we will also save valuable taxpayer dollars to invest in health care, Head Start, K-12 education, community colleges, and other critically important services.
Victim Services Spending:
No one wants or asks to be a victim of crime. Being harmed by another person – or when a loved one is harmed – can change the way a person sees him/herself, the person who caused the harm, and the rest of the world.
Recovering from the emotional, physical, and financial effects of crime can be overwhelming and wearisome. Encountering the justice system can be confusing and frustrating. Thankfully, there are programs and professionals in Oregon communities and the justice system that can help victims of crime (some community programs help whether or not the crime was ever reported).
Programs in Oregon communities provide: emergency shelter; counseling and support; safety planning; outreach to underserved victims; and comprehensive advocacy. Programs in the justice system provide: information about victims’ rights; notification of proceedings; referrals to services; and assistance. But these vital programs are severely underfunded.
In 2006, Oregon commissioned a study on the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence and the funding available to help survivors. The study found that in order to meaningfully meet survivors’ basic needs, $16.8 million would be needed each biennium. The state provides less than half of the needed funding for domestic and sexual violence programs, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the Dept. of Corrections budget.
Oregon needs to value crime survivor services and support as an essential part of its approach to public safety. Domestic and sexual violence service programs are essential to stop the cycle of violence. Victims who access services are 60% less likely to be re-assaulted during the next year. However, a lack of shelter leads to homelessness or causes some victims to return to – or stay in – an abusive and dangerous situation because they have nowhere else to go. Without appropriate assistance, it is more likely that the cycle of violence will continue to the next generation.
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