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Drug-only crimes may become misdemeanors in Oregon

Group strives to help addicted population through recovery efforts

When it comes to addressing drug possession only crimes, law enforcement and government officials are looking at progressive ways to find more healthful solutions.

Oregon Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police say they recognize that every community and most of the citizens are touched in one way or another by the damaging impacts of drug addiction.

A press release from the law enforcement groups stated it this way: “We understand that it ruins lives, breaks hearts, burdens families and robs our communities of individuals with potential. Too often, individuals with addiction issues find their way to the doorstep of the criminal justice system when they are arrested for possession of a controlled substance. The penalty is often a felony drug conviction where the person may receive a jail sentence, are placed on probation and receive limited treatment services. Unfortunately, felony convictions in these cases also include unintended and collateral consequences including barriers to housing and employment and a disparate impact on minority communities.”

Oregon Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police are working with the Governor, Attorney General, District Attorneys, members of the Oregon State Legislature and other stakeholders to craft a more thoughtful approach to drug possession when it is the only crime committed.

Oregon Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police recommend that user-amount drug possession convictions be treated as misdemeanors and recommend that offenders be assessed and given individualized, mandated treatment as a condition of their convictions. The ultimate goal is for drug abusers to return to health and productivity so they will not commit future crimes and become further entangled in the criminal justice system.

“This approach continues to demand accountability while applying limited resources to treatment and services to address the underlying addiction and prevent future crime. We believe our limited criminal justice resources should be focused on addressing violent crime and property crime problems that destroy community livability,” the press release stated.

Oregon Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police do not support any reduction in Community Corrections funding through savings for the historic felony level population, stating that it would undermine current recidivism reduction work and harm community-based efforts that are a result of the state's Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

Oregon Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police think, the release continues, the newly created misdemeanor population should continue to be funded by the state, and community corrections agencies should remain responsible for providing the assessments and subsequent evidence-based treatment service or referrals, and that prosecutors continue to have access to specialty courts such as drug court and other accountability tools as they treat these drug possession crimes as Class A misdemeanors. In many counties, first-time drug possession offenders can avoid a felony if they seek and complete treatment.

Oregon Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police stated, “We must be clear. It is imperative that mandated assessments and treatment services accompany this change in drug crime policy so that individual risks and needs can been identified and addressed.”

The Oregon Association Chiefs of Police is a statewide association of municipal law enforcement leaders.