Bend police react to new federal drug-sentencing rules

Oregon lawmakers, meanwhile, giving judges more flexibility

POSTED: 3:06 PM PDT August 15, 2013    UPDATED: 5:16 PM PDT August 15, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

Central Oregon law enforcement officials are reacting with cautious optimism to a new federal plan to keep many first-time drug offenders out of prison, while a new Oregon law will give judges more flexibility on sentences for some drug and property crimes

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday he's ordering federal prosecutors not to charge non-violent, drug offenders with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences, if they have no ties to organized drug rings.

Bend Police Capt. Jim Porter, a 30-year veteran of the force, told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday, "When you factor in that it costs $30,000 a year to incarcerate someone, as opposed to how little it costs to run a drug court, I think we are better served -- in some cases, not all, but some."

Porter says the benefits of redirecting money toward drug court, rehabilitation and drug addiction treatment might be better locally.

The Oregon Legislature recently passed a public safety reform bill that tweaks Measure 57, giving judges more flexibility while boosting the budget for community corrections, allowing for more drug and alcohol treatment and post-release programs aimed at keeping people from returning to jail or prison. One goal is to keep the state’s prison population from growing in coming years.