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Blue Ribbon Panel's Recommendations Include Easing Certain Prison Sentences

SALEM, Ore. – Some of Oregon’s voter-approved criminal sentencing laws would get a second look under a series of recommendations approved Monday by a high level commission. It’s part of a package of ideas aimed at slowing the growth of Oregon’s prison population.

The Commission on Public Safety didn't wholeheartedly endorse the proposal to scale back some voter-approved mandatory minimum sentences. Those include some types of robbery, assault and sex abuse. But the panel did list the strategy as one way for lawmakers to avoid having to open a costly new prison.

Oregon Corrections Department Director Colette Peters says reducing some sentences would be used in tandem with other, less controversial options.

"We have to figure out how to slow or stop prison growth," she says. "We can only do that by either stopping the number of individuals that come to prison, or impacting how long they stay with us."

The proposal is already meeting some resistance from Oregon district attorneys. But Governor John Kitzhaber applauded the report and said he looks forward to a "robust" discussion with the legislature. He has said he hopes cost savings in corrections can be diverted into programs meant to keep people out of trouble in the first place.

On the Web:

Public Safety Commission final report (