Measure 57 and Property Crime Sentencing
Nearly 50% of prison intakes at Oregon’s women’s prison are for property crimes. In 2016, the property crimes of theft in the first degree, identity theft, and unauthorized use of a vehicle were among the top four most common offenses for women.
In 2008, Oregonians passed Ballot Measure 57, which created mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent property offenders. Not surprisingly, this mandatory minimum sentencing scheme has disproportionately impacted women and contributed to the increasing incarceration rate of women in Oregon.
According to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, prison intakes for women were significantly fewer during the years prior to the enactment of M57 and during the brief window of time when the measure was suspended (February 15, 2010 to January 1, 2012) than when M57 has been in effect.
Despite the significant impact of M57, how the measure operates and its criminal law context are not well understood by Oregonians. Read our report Unlocking Measure 57 (updated May 2018).
Property crimes are often driven by underlying social and public health issues such as poverty, abuse, trauma, and drug addiction.
Mandatory minimum sentences take away judicial discretion and shift more power to prosecutors, who already hold significant sway in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors have unrestricted and opaque discretion to charge crimes in ways that trigger overly punitive and disproportionate sentences.
Read the story of Janny Sumnall. She is serving nearly a decade at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility for her role in a series of burglaries of empty homes. She became involved in the crimes as a result of her relationship with her partner who was violent toward her. She was sentenced as a repeat property offender despite never having been in trouble with the law before.