Passed by a nearly two-thirds majority of Oregon voters in November 1994, Measure 11 establishes mandatory prison sentences for the most serious offenses in the Oregon criminal code, including but not limited to murder, rape, assault, sexual abuse, and kidnapping. Under Measure 11 guidelines, the sentencing judge cannot prescribe a jail sentence less than the specified amount of time, and the convicted criminal’s sentence may not be reduced while incarcerated for good behavior or by parole.
Since its passage the law has been expanded four times, to include additional violent or serious crimes including arson and robbery. Changes to Measure 11 must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Oregon state legislature, and a 2000 repeal initiative was defeated by an almost three-to-one margin.
Victims’ rights groups – including Crime Victims United, the citizens’ group that spearheaded Measure 11’s 1994 passage – champion the measure as a proven deterrent against violent and sexually-based crimes, both discouraging potential violent criminals while keeping convicted offenders out of society.
Opponents charge that the bill potentially encourages innocent defendants to seek plea bargain agreements rather than risk mandatory Measure 11 sentences. Other critics believe the law restricts the power of judges to arbitrate criminal cases while putting too much power in the hands of district attorneys and other prosecutors.