Oregon Prison Population Forecast Trends Downward

Oct 10, 2017
Originally published on October 9, 2017 5:30 pm

The projected incarceration rate of Oregonians is expected to fall by 11 percent over the next decade.

That’s according to the semi-annual prison population forecast issued by the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. The agency issues the prediction twice a year to help policy-makers and corrections officials plan for the future.

The most recent forecast shows a significant drop, which analysts attribute to a measure signed into law by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in August.

The bill was primarily aimed at reducing the incarceration rate of women. It came as Oregon lawmakers were considering whether or not to open a second women’s prison in the state. The measure uses a variety of strategies, including a reduction in “presumptive sentences” for certain property crimes, and beefing up support programs for women leaving prison to reduce recidivism rates.

The Office of Economic Analysis credits the bill for its latest projections, which show Oregon’s prison population remaining mostly flat even as the state’s overall population is expected to steadily increase.

In fact, the number of women behind bars in Oregon is expected to drop by 8 percent over the next 10 years, according to the projections.

“This is due to the estimated impact of House Bill 3078,” analysts wrote. “Most of the drop is realized in the property crime population as this is where components of the bill were focused.”

The measure passed the Legislature on a nearly party-line vote. The Oregon District Attorney’s Association called it “unnecessary” and said it was driven solely out of a desire to save the state money.

But Andy Ko, the director of Partnership for Safety and Justice, said while a lower prison population can lead to lower costs, it is possible to keep people out of prison and increase public safety simultaneously.

“It’s just a question of how we do it,” he said, “and whether we do it in a smart way.”

Ko said he was “pleased” at the initial projections, but said he’s aware that “it’s all still very early” to judge the policy changes in HB 3078 on a long-term basis.

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