SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — When Oregon voters passed Measure 11 in 1994, it established mandatory minimum prison sentences for specific crimes against people.
Now, after more than 20 years, those mandatory minimum sentences are being given a second look, and a rally to reform Measure 11 took place in Salem on Friday.
One group at the rally said they “want judges to decide prison sentences, not the DAs.”
Others held signs with messages: “Give 1st Time Offenders a Fair Chance” and “Time does not fit the crime”.
Opponents of Measure 11
Among those urging reform at the state capitol Friday was Christine VanOrder, who was just 19 when she was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of just under 6 years for a 2nd-degree robbery.
The fact she was a first-time offender wasn’t taken into consideration under Measure 11’s rules.
VanOrder now is running for a state House of Representatives seat to try and change the system.
“I don’t think my criminal history will inhibit me so much as give me the kind of perspective needed to really get some meaningful criminal justice reform going,” she said. She’s running for a seat in District 40, representing Gladstone, Oregon City, Milwaukie and parts of Clackamas.
Barbara Dickerson and Patty Youngblood are co-founders of Time Does Not Fit The Crime. Youngblood said the goal of the reform movement is to give first-offenders a chance.
Her son is doing 11 years for his crime.
“Oregon is now a ‘One strike and you’re out’ state and we used to be ‘Three strikes and you’re out,'” she told KOIN 6 News. “There are a lot of first-time offenders in there and not even for a criminal or violent act.”.
Dickerson’s husband was 63 when he was convicted and sentenced under Measure 11 for a first-time offense — accused of molesting their step-granddaughter.
“Never been in trouble,” she said of her husband. “Outstanding citizen.”
Dickerson said Measure 11 “is a fairly good law,” but she’d like to see sentences for first-time offenders reviewed by the judge.
“The power has shifted to the DAs and they don’t want to let go of that control and we want to see it back in the judges hands for 1st-time offenders,” she told KOIN 6 News. “We want to see first time offenders backtracked to 2014 if this bill gets passed, if they are not violent, we want to see them reviewed half way through their sentence.”
Proponents of Measure 11
Steve Doell, the president of Crime Victims United, has an extremely personal connection with Measure 11. His daughter Lisa was murdered in Lake Oswego when she was only 12.
“She was murdered by a 16-year-old who had a violent background,” Doell told KOIN 6 News. “Because of the way the laws were at the time and the jury makeup, he received a 3 year sentence and did 28 months and walked.”
In November 1994, nearly 67% of voters approved Measure 11. By an even wider margin — 74% — voters rejected its repeal in 2000
Doell said they have worked to make Measure 11 more fair.
“Measure 11 only covers first- and second-degree violent crimes and sex offenses. Things like burglary, car theft, identity theft, fraud aggravated theft — these are not part of Measure 11.”
Before Measure 11 was in place, he said, “You could commit a murder and do as little as 8 years in prison, and you could commit a first-degree rape and do as little as 4 years in prison.”
Doell added, “When you do an awful crime against another human being or take another’s life, there has to be a price to pay.”