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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon House Passes Sentencing, Corrections Changes


Oregon lawmakers have given the initial approval to a sweeping measure aimed at checking the growth of the state's prison population. The House Thursday passed a bill that reduces some sentences for non-violent crimes.

The measure would lower the penalties for people convicted of some marijuana crimes and driving with a suspended license. It would also shave prison time off the voter-approved mandatory minimum sentence for robbery and identity theft. It would also put money into programs aimed at reducing recidivism rates.

Democratic representative Chris Garrett says one of the goals is to hold Oregon's prison population steady over the next five years to prevent the need to open an additional prison.

"Now there's nothing wrong with spending money on prisons," says Garrett. "Prisons are a core function of government. But there is something wrong when we're spending a disproportionate amount of public safety resources on corrections at the expense of other programs."

The plan has won the approval of Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber and some Republicans. It now heads to the Senate, where the clock is ticking to pass legislation. Lawmakers are now pushing to adjourn by early next week.

On the Web:

HB 3194: criminal sentence reduction - Oregon Legislature