First-time offenders caught with small amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs will face less jail time and smaller fines under a new bill approved by the Oregon legislature that aims to curb mass incarceration.
Via The Washington Post:
The Oregon legislature passed a bill late last week that reclassifies possession of several drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor, reducing the punishments and expanding access to drug treatment for people without prior felonies or convictions for drug possession. Oregon lawmakers hope to encourage drug users to seek help rather than filling up the state’s prisons as an epidemic of abuse spreads.
“We are tying to move policy towards treatment rather than prison beds,” said state Sen. Jackie Winters (R), co-chair of the Public Safety Committee and a supporter of the bill. “We can’t continue on the path of building more prisons when often the underlying root cause of the crime is substance use.”
And while many Oregon counties already allow some low-level drug offenders to undergo treatment instead of jail time, these programs are generally in wealthier counties with more resources, leaving people in low-income communities without options.
“So if you crossed the county line with a small amount of heroin, in one county you could be looking at a felony. In another county you could be looking at a misdemeanor with pretty good access to treatment,” Knott said. “We had a feeling this was unjust because the outcome is largely due to the county’s resources.”
The bill also deals with the issue of racial profiling by police.
The bill requires police officers to record demographic information — including the age, race and gender — of any person stopped during routine pedestrian and traffic stops. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission will analyze the demographic data police departments collect and will notify them of any disparities so that the departments can make adjustments to their practices.
In 2015, Oregon became the 31st state to pass a law addressing racial profiling, but it did not provide guidance for dealing with the issue. “The bill was incomplete,” Knott said. “It was saying to police departments, ‘Just don’t profile,’ and ‘Here is a definition of what not to do, and we expect you not to do it.’ ”
All of which sound incredibly progressive. So much so, that I can never see Jeff Sessions (or any Trump stooge for that matter), allowing this nationally.