Clackamas County officials express commutations concerns
State Rep, Christine Drazan of Canby wrote a letter on behalf of 12 Clackamas County officials to Governor Kate Brown denouncing her decision to commute prison sentences of individuals who committed violent crimes such as assault, rape and murder as teenagers.
The letter was signed by Canby Mayor Brian Hodson, Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser and other area mayors, members of the Legislature and county commissioners.
"My colleagues and I sent the letter to Governor Brown because we all share concerns over her decision to undermine Measure 11 and release violent criminals back into the community," Drazan wrote in an email, noting that Brown's office had acknowledged the letter but had not responded.
Earlier this year, Brown commuted the sentences for more than 70 individuals who were convicted of violent or sexual crimes as teenagers between 1988 and 2019. The list includes four people from Clackamas County â€“ each was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
An additional list of juvenile offenders that will have a chance to petition for clemency includes about 25 people from Clackamas County after serving at least half of their sentence.
The clemency order received pushback from a number of elected officials across Oregon, citing concerns that victims of these crimes may be retraumatized if offenders are released. Additionally, district attorneys and their victims were reportedly not made aware of these commutations until the lists were released by the media.
"By commuting the prison sentences of violent offenders, you are not only reversing the work of our justice system to keep our communities safe, but you are prioritizing offenders and directly harming the victims and their families," the letter states.
Keyser said he took a personal stand because his step-daughter was assaulted by one of these individuals.
"It's scary that other parents are going to have to be dealing with that this year," he said. "No parent deserves to have to deal with that."
In 2019, Brown signed Senate Bill 1008, which required that youth are offered a second look hearing halfway through their sentence. The bill took effect January 1, 2020. This amends Measure 11 guidelines, passed in 1994, which imposed mandatory sentencing for 16 violent and sexual crimes. In The individuals on the lists were sentenced before the bill passed, as SB 1008 was not retroactive.
"As a state we voted in Measure 11 for violent crimes and our governor doesn't see fit to listen to the voters," Keyser said. "What we're hoping for is that the governor quits taking advantage of the voters of the state and listens to what the voters asked for."
In 1994, Measure 11 was passed with overwhelming support, Drazan noted. "Community members and victims depend on the implementation of Measure 11 to ensure that people who commit violent crimes do not reoffend and are held accountable for their actions."
Brown's commutation order notes that youth "are capable of tremendous transformation," and should be considered for release on parole and given a second chance.
"Releasing violent offenders to advance political priorities at the expense of victims and community safety is wrong," the letter states. "We call on you to uphold the law, keep Oregonians safe, and stop abusing commutations to bypass existing processes for early release of offenders."
Cases will be individually reviewed to determine eligibility for release on parole. Parole hearings are expected to begin in spring 2022. Brown must grant clemency before her term in office ends in January 2023.
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