Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a youth sentencing reform bill into law Monday.
The new law includes a number of substantial reforms to Oregon’s juvenile justice system, reversing in part a tough-on-crime ballot measure voters approved in 1995. Overall, the reforms move to grant more discretion to judges, removing mandatory minimum sentences and lifting a requirement that juveniles over 15 years old convicted of murder, rape and/or kidnapping be automatically tried as a adults. Furthermore, the law prohibits any court from imposing a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole on any person under 18 years of age.
Though the law, which is set to take effect January 2020, is not retroactive, it allows for youth convicted as adults to have a “Second Look” hearing in which a judge can review their cases as well as any evidence of rehabilitation, and decide whether to commute their sentences to community service.
In a statement, Brown expressed her hopes for the new reforms:
This legislation will serve troubled youth in our community for generations to come, reshaping lives and putting them on a path towards success. … Data has informed the path forward. By changing the sentencing guidelines for youth offenders, our communities will be safer. And more Oregonians will have better chances of using their time in custody to make a turnaround in their lives.
At a signing ceremony Monday, Brown honored late Oregon Senator Jackie Winters, a prominent supporter of the bill.