SALEM — An Oregon legislative committee heard testimony from the public Wednesday on legislation that would scale back the state's mandatory minimum sentencing laws known as Measure 11.
The Joint Committee on Public Safety, created by legislative leaders to shepherd sentencing discussions, heard two hours of testimony but took no action on the measure. Another public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Friday.
The bill would make changes to Measure 11, a 1994 voter-approved initiative that created mandatory minimum sentences for some violent crimes. The bill would remove mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of certain sex abuse, assault and robbery crimes.
Proponents of the legislation say it would save the state more than $600 million in prison costs, and that certain offenders can be effectively monitored in sentencing programs that cost much less than prisons. "We can still hold people accountable while making modest adjustments to their sentences," Paul Solomon, executive director of Sponsors, a transitional housing program, told lawmakers.
But opponents contend existing policies have helped discourage criminals.
"We should keep one of the few areas of government that is working exactly as it should intact," Washington County deputy district attorney Bracken McKey told lawmakers.