Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, the state of Oregon was a leader in community corrections. It saw an astounding 47% increase in its incarcerated population, as well as a spike in the incarceration of low-level drug offenders between 2011 and 2012. As a result of increased incarcerations, state funding went towards prisons instead of rehabilitative probation programs and law enforcement.
Starting in 2003, Oregon legislature began its initiative to reform the criminal justice system: The Oregon Department of Corrections created Home for Good in Oregon(HGO), a reentry program for ex-offenders that uses local community and faith-based resources to help former inmates become productive, law-abiding civilians. Among the resources this program offers are faith-based transition classes and pre-release counseling, as well as individualized services that are tailored to each inmate according to his or her release plan.
In 2007, Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) created the Re-entry Council which established a statewide leadership group that works to improve the effectiveness of incarceration and reentry programs, as well as the success of community transitions. It also focuses on how to break some of the barriers ex-offenders face when searching for employment and housing.
In 2013, the Commission on Public Safety supported a new law which proposed reforms that changed mandatory minimum laws relating to certain drug and driving offenses. In addition, it incentivized Oregon counties to improve corrections programs by implementing drug courts and using electronic monitoring of low-level offenders as alternatives to incarceration.
In 2019, Oregon passed legislation that would allow juveniles subject to mandatory minimum sentences be eligible to serve a reduced sentence. This legislation would make it possible for low-level juvenile offenders to serve shorter sentences and make room for more violent offenders in prisons.
Throughout the last 15 years, the state of Oregon has put forth a great effort to aid ex-offenders’ transition from prison to civilian life, but it still has some work to do to address other problems within the criminal justice system.