If you want to understand some of the political issues around prison sentencing reform, look no further than House Bill 3508, which passed in the 2009 legislature.
The legislation is still making waves in current political campaigns, including the East Multnomah County race between Democratic incumbent Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson and her Republican challenger, Scott Hansen.
Some prognosticators believe the Monnes Anderson/Hansen race could go either way and, if it turns Republican, it could change the balance of power in the Senate where Democrats currently hold a 16-14 edge.
If you go back and read HB 3508, its 29 pages are hard to decipher. But it passed by clear majorities in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Ted Kulongoski. In general, the bill revised a number of statutes with the effect of reducing the time some prisoners serve in state prison. And that has become fodder for political ads aimed at Monnes Anderson for supporting increased "good time" provisions for certain offenders, which meant they got out of prison earlier.
The Leadership Fund, run by Senate Republicans, sent out a mailer to voters in East Multnomah County, describing Monnes Anderson as friendly to violent criminals. "Would you have voted to let violent criminals out of jail early? Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson did …" reads one side of the mailer, which features corrections bars. The flip side explains in some detail how she voted to give "crimina