Oregon Legislature Passes Historic Juvenile Justice Sentencing Reform

OYA’s director and deputy director discuss what Senate Bill 1008 will mean for Oregon youth.

Above: OYA director Joe O’Leary testified at the legislature in favor of Senate Bill 1008, alongside former OYA youth Sang Dao and Department of Corrections director Colette Peters.

By Joe O’Leary, OYA director, and Nakeia Daniels, OYA deputy director

Late last week, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1008, a comprehensive juvenile justice sentencing reform bill that, once signed by the Governor, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

This historic reform was supported by OYA, Department of Corrections, Oregon’s Attorney General, the Oregon Juvenile Department Directors’ Association, AFSCME and SEIU, as well as many community partners and advocates. The changes are intended to make Oregon’s juvenile system fairer, help reduce victimization, and increase positive outcomes for our youth.

Here’s What Senate Bill 1008 Does:

  • Requires all juveniles, including those who commit Measure 11 crimes, to have their matters start in juvenile court, but allows a prosecutor to ask a judge to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to waive the youth to adult court.
  • Allows juveniles charged as adults, even those convicted of Measure 11 crimes, to be eligible for a Second Look hearing halfway through their sentence, where they can argue for conditional release. If released, they would be supervised by adult community corrections.
  • Allows a “transfer hearing” for youth who are about to transfer to adult prison at age 25 but have less than two years left in their sentence. At the hearing, they can argue for conditional release before going to DOC. If released, they would be supervised by adult community corrections.
  • Eliminates life without parole sentences for juveniles by ensuring that youth have a chance for parole after 15 years of incarceration.
  • Requires that judges note on the court order the age of the youth at the time of their offense.
  • Provides access to trauma-informed and culturally relevant resources for victims.

As a reminder, this bill is not retroactive, which means it will not impact any youth previously sentenced or currently in our custody. It will only apply to youth with matters pending after Jan. 1, 2020.

What’s Next?

When this bill started gaining traction in the legislature, we began convening meetings with stakeholders to discuss the ways that this measure will change how we do our work. OYA and the county juvenile departments have co-facilitated several meetings with system partners for that purpose, acknowledging that we have 25 years of new data, analytical tools, research, and partnerships to leverage. There will likely be many more of these types of conversations in the coming months as we prepare for the legislation to take effect. We feel strongly that judges, prosecutors, defenders, representatives of communities of color, and advocates for victims’ rights and youth rights need to be involved in these discussions.

The changes in this bill are historic, and we are excited about the implications for supporting future youth and preventing more victims in Oregon’s communities.

 

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