On February 16-17 I was pleased to see commissioners and judges from every corner of the state – including Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris as the master of ceremonies – at the Justice Reinvestment/What Works Summit in Salem. As individual counties, and as an organization, we are proving that counties are truly where ideas are translated into action.
It was good to hear that Oregon is recognized as a national leader in this effort. In an era of high partisan polarization, justice reinvestment is one concept that seems to have won bipartisan support. There are many good reasons for this. The three strikes, lock ‘em up approach of the 80s and 90s has been shown to be ruinously expensive to state and local governments and it hasn’t made our communities safer. There are better ways.
These include better coordination between the public safety and behavioral health systems; increased access to drug and alcohol treatment; increased training for law enforcement officers; better diversion opportunities at every point in the system; and more. A lot of these concepts fall under the concept of the Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort to reduce the number of persons with mental illness in jails and prisons. One-third of Oregon counties have joined Stepping Up, and I hope to see many more coming on board in the months ahead.
A large contingent of commissioners and sheriff’s took an hour away from the proceedings to travel to the Capitol building and meet with House members about the importance of maintaining, and if at all possible increasing, the state’s commitment to justice reinvestment. Our efforts at the local level are already yielding positive results in helping the state avoid the enormous costs of building and opening new prisons. Governor Brown also joined us for a conversation.
This is a complex challenge, but it’s also an amazing opportunity for all of us. Let’s keep the positive momentum going and continue making a difference for all the people we serve.
Contributed by: Commissioner Bill Hall | AOC President | Lincoln County