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Governor signs Oregon youth sentencing reform bill into law

The late Senator Jackie Winters championed the bill and saw it passed prior to her death in May.

Posted: Jul 22, 2019 12:13 PM
Updated: Jul 23, 2019 10:38 AM

SALEM, Ore. — On Monday morning, Governor Kate Brown was poised to sign a bill into law that would bring sweeping reforms to Oregon's juvenile justice system.

"This legislation will serve troubled youth in our community for generations to come, reshaping lives and putting them on a path towards success," said Governor Brown. "Data has informed the path forward. By changing the sentencing guidelines for youth offenders, our communities will be safer. And more Oregonians will have better chances of using their time in custody to make a turnaround in their lives."

Prior to her death in May, Republican minority leader Sen. Jackie Winters fought to see Senate Bill 1008 passed by the Oregon legislature — which it did, just days before Sen. Winters' passing. The bill also saw enthusiastic support from Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA), the Board of Parole, the Oregon Department of Corrections, county juvenile directors, and many judges, attorneys, and advocacy organizations.

"This bill recognizes that kids are works in progress and are tremendously capable of growth and change," said OYA Director Joseph O'Leary. "That every kid should be given a second chance."

The bill rolls back some "tough on crime" policies for young offenders, removing mandatory minimum sentencing for serious crimes. Previously, youth ages 15 and older accused of serious crimes were automatically tried as adults.

"The legislation represents the most significant reform to Oregon’s juvenile justice system since 1995, when voters passed Measure 11 and OYA was created," Gov. Brown's office said in a statement. "Since then, OYA has been on a path of transformation, moving from a model of secure facilities that provide some treatment and education, to a model of treatment and education facilities that are also secure."

"This law will help bring the entire juvenile justice system in line with that transformation and be more consistent with what research says is most effective for protecting the public and maximizing good outcomes," the statement concluded.

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