The fight to stop Kevin Mannix's proposed new mandatory minimum sentences just took a step forward but also got much more complicated.
The February legislative session ended late Friday night and on the last day they referred a measure to the November ballot challenging Mannix's property crime measure (IP 40). The legislative measure, which has yet to be given an official number for the ballot, has a superseding clause which means it cancels out IP 40 if it gets more votes.
The legislature tried to put together a smarter approach to addressing drug and property crime. They got some things right and other things quite wrong. Where the legislature went wrong was their continued need to posture as tough on crime despite the evidence about what's effective. But the legislature was right to reject traditional mandatory minimum sentences, to allow first time offenders a chance for treatment and diversion, and to invest in prison-based treatment and diversion programs.
Partnership for Safety and Justice encouraged legislators to send something to the ballot to compete against IP 40, but we weren't advocating for a punitive focus. For that reason, we have not officially endorsed the legislative referral.
For a detailed description of the substance of the legislative referral and how it compares to IP 40, please click on the link below:
Comparing Legislative Property Crime Ballot Measure to Mannix's Initiative Petition 40
Going into the February legislative session, we knew that the IP 40 polled very well and that successfully running a straight No on IP 40 campaign would require millions of dollars we don't have access to. At the same time, we saw polling that suggested a competing ballot measure with a more balance approach could potentially defeat IP 40. The referral does provide a legitimate chance of beating IP 40, although the referral includes a compromising set of policies.
We are currently assessing the situation and talking to a wide range of allies who have significant electoral campaign experience. First and foremost, we are interested in defeating IP 40. IP 40 would be, by far, the worst thing to happen to Oregon's criminal justice system since Measure 11. It would create a new set of mandatory minimum sentences, put upwards of 6,000 new people into the state prison system in the first three years alone, and require the construction of three new prisons. To make matters worse, IP 40 would likely lead to a de-funding of the very programs that are proven to reduce recidivism. In that respect, we believe public safety would get worse not better under IP 40.
The question we now need to ask and answer is: In addition to voting "No" on IP 40, would voting "No" on the legislative referral make IP 40 more likely to pass? If so, we will be faced with the all-to-familiar election-time dilemma of possibly having to support the lesser of two evils.
PSJ will be researching and struggling in the coming weeks with what is the best path for us to take. We will have arrived at a definitive stance by our April 5th statewide gathering in Salem. That day-long event will be entirely focused on how we can best defeat IP 40 and its proposed new mandatory minimum sentences.
We will provide continued updates on how we assess the situation ahead. We need everyone up for the fight. We cannot allow Oregon to take a giant stride backward with new mandatory minimums and even more prisons. Oregon's future does not lie behind bars.