What a thought-provoking, informative program we had last week. Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry was our speaker, visiting as part of a self-described, “once-a-year service club roadshow.” His program was entitled “Myth Busters,” and he discussed important topics, such as the use of prisons and sentencing practices.
The “A,B,C’s” of Sentencing
Brad explained that there are basically two kinds of crime: misdemeanors and felonies. People arrested on a misdemeanor could be sentenced for up to 365 days, but don’t get jail time in Oregon. There are three classes of felonies: A, B and C. A’s get you 20 years, B’s 10 years, and C’s 5 years. Murder gets a life sentence.
Since 1989, sentences for felonies have been dictated by a set of guidelines. In an effort to get similar sentences in similar situations in various counties, there is a tool called “The Grid.” It has a “crime seriousness” scale on one side, and a “type of criminal background” scale on the other. This grid dictates what type of sentence a judge is required to render in any particular case.
TRUE OR FALSE?
Brad posed some quiz questions to the audience, and the answers were very enlightening. For example:
True or False? Prisons are full of low-level offenders
According to Brad, person/sex offenders make up 68% of the prison population, property offenders 19%, drug offenders 8% and “other” 5%. “Addicts go to prison, but not for possession,” he said. “If you sell large quantities of drugs or sell drugs to kids, then you go to prison. Drug addicts who commit other crimes go, too.”
True or False? Oregon overuses prisons
Oregon ranks 25th among the 50 states for incarceration rates. The national average is 4.7 per 1000 population. Oregon is about 20% below the national average at 3.8 per 1000.
True or False? Prison populations are soaring
Brad said the crime rate is stable currently, but with projected population growth, it is likely to rise. There are 14,200 beds in the Department of Corrections. If they are full, inmates are released or sentences are reduced. He said it is “very, very expensive to build a new prison–$150 million to open the doors.”
Brad summarized his presentation with some key points:
- “Numbers don’t lie, but you can lie with numbers”
- “We should always be willing to look at and challenge how we sentence”
- “There are those who believe we incarcerate too many for too long”
- “Those that argue about Oregon’s use of prisons often make comparisons that are false in their premise.”
- “Headlines often mislead what the true facts show”
- “Prisons are not always the answer, but will remain one of the answers”
Who knew that Peaceful Fred Gregory, who has joined the Friendsview Board of Directors, had it in him to be such a “hard core” Duck $$$ solicitor? Wow, he must have set some kind of recordist week! Thank you, Fred.
President Leah reminded us that Newberg has a warming shelter, and asked for either volunteer help or donations for our community’s homeless when the temperatures get below freezing. For more information, please contact Denise Bacon.
REMINDER: NO MEETING UNTIL JANUARY!