Max Williams, the former head of the state Department of Corrections, says he doesn't think the state's death penalty has worked well, and voter-passed laws about sentencing have put too much emphasis on locking people up and not enough on helping prisoners integrate back into society.
Williams, who resigned in December, told an audience at the Oregon Historical Society last night that Oregonians need to rethink how the state deals with crime.
In light of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s moratorium on enforcing the death penalty, which he issued in November
, Williams said it might be the time for voters to abolish the ultimate sentence altogether.
It may be time, Williams said, “to admit we really don’t have the stomach for it.”
He said voters need to reevaluate the way they treat crime in other ways, too.
“Prison is really an expensive timeout,” he said, noting that 93 percent of prisoners eventually get out.
The community has to do something with the ex-prisoners, he said, and needs to fund programs that help give them a “true second chance, after doing everything that has been asked of them.”
Williams left the DOC last month to head the Oregon Community Foundation. He begins on Feb. 1.
For more on the Department of Corrections, see today’s cover story, “Jail Birds