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Counties will tap $35 million for special courts

Courts — The money is part of a two-year budget for the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission


SALEM — Counties can tap $35 million in grants for programs that keep inmates out of state prisons under a budget that won approval last week in the Oregon Senate.

The $35 million is included in the two-year budget for the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. It’s down from the $58 million proposed by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber in his two-year budget submitted in December. But it’s more than the $20 million initially proposed by the Legislature’s chief budget writers in January.

Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem), the budget’s floor manager, said the agency budget contains an additional $14 million in aid for specialty courts.

Examples in the Portland area are the START and STOP courts in Multnomah County. The latter is Oregon’s oldest court, and the nation’s second oldest, to focus on felony drug offenders. Others are the Adult Drug Court and Keys to Success in Washington County, and the Teen Drug Court in Clackamas County.

Among the rural area programs are adult drug courts in Hermiston and Pendleton, and Clatsop and Columbia counties. Clatsop County also has a mental health treatment court.

Specialty courts usually combine treatment for offenders with sanctions if they fail to follow through.

The commission budget now goes to the House.

Lawmakers approved two years ago what are known as criminal justice reinvestment grants, which come from savings in keeping the state prison population at 14,500 inmates. The grants stem from the work of a blue-ribbon commission Kitzhaber appointed in 2011 and 2012.

Winters said the programs have accounted for an estimated $73 million in savings so far.

“We are turning over every rock to find money for programs that are working,” she said.

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