By Joe O’Leary, OYA Director
Governor Kate Brown signed the juvenile justice sentencing reform bill, Senate Bill 1008, into law on July 22, 2019. I am honored to say that she invited me to speak at the signing event in Portland. I thought I’d share my remarks.
I’m looking forward to working with our staff and stakeholders in the coming year to implement this law.
I am honored and excited to be here today with the Governor, Senator Winters’ family and all of you to celebrate the signing of Senate Bill 1008 into law.
The Oregon Youth Authority was thrilled to join so many public safety partners that advocated for this reform: Attorney General, Board of Parole, Department of Corrections, county juvenile directors, numerous judges, attorneys, and advocacy organizations. Today’s signing represents common sense changes to the state’s juvenile justice system, reforms that will make communities safer, reduce victimization, and improve rehabilitation opportunities for youth.
OYA supports this new law because:
- Kids are different: Interventions we take with youth should be different from what we do with adults. Experts tell us that the human brain gets built in an ongoing construction project that continues into at least our mid-20s. Kids are works in progress with tremendous capacity for growth and change.
- Public safety: Data shows that youth are twice as likely to recidivate when they serve time at adult facilities. This law will allow more youth to remain in environments suitable to their developmental needs, where they can learn and grow to develop internal accountability. This will improve their chances of rehabilitation and lead to safer communities.
- Reducing racial and ethnic disparities: Extreme disparities exist in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems, and the deeper you get into the system, the more impact these disparities have. This law will give judges more discretion about where to send youth who commit serious crimes. Additionally, youth who do go to adult court will have more motivation and opportunities to show they have changed and earned the ability to return to the community.
This law represents the most significant reform to Oregon’s juvenile justice system since 1995, when OYA was created. SB 1008 will help bring Oregon law in line with what research says is most effective for protecting the public and maximizing good outcomes.
We look forward to partnering with a broad coalition of stakeholders statewide in the coming months to make sure this law is implemented in a way that best supports crime victims, youth, and families.
We are thankful to the Legislature for supporting these changes, particularly Senator Jackie Winters, whose tireless advocacy for OYA and the youth in our state will never be forgotten.