Tag Archives: Partnership for Safety and Justice

Incarceration is not health care; police are not physicians

By Gustav Cappaert, Contributing Writer

In May 2010, someone called the Portland police to report a man talking to himself and spitting on cars in Old Town. When a police officer arrived, he found the man unwilling to be handcuffed. The officer hit the man with pepper spray and four Taser blasts. The man had schizophrenia.

The officer was not reprimanded for his response, and is now a co-defendant in a trial for a separate case of police brutality. His is not an isolated offense; the Portland area has seen at least 160 police involved deaths. In September 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed what most in the mental health community already knew when they “exposed” a longstanding pattern of excessive force by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). In October, the city and the federal government reached an agreement. Under this plan, the city will add two Mobile Crisis Units — in which a mental health worker is paired with a police officer — revise its use-of-force policies; hire internal investigators; and create the Community Oversight Advisory Board which will meet twice a year. Continue reading

Local enforcement of fed’s immigration law weakens public safety

by Cassandra Villanueva, Contributing Columnist

A hairline crack in the windshield of my sister’s car turned our family’s world upside down in 2010. On their way home from the store to celebrate my nephew’s birthday, my sister was stopped by police two blocks from home. In the passenger seat was her husband with a birthday cake in his lap and three of their children were in the backseat.

For years, they had lived cautiously in the shadows and practiced what they would do if they were pulled over or stopped by the police. They talked about how they would know their rights, remain silent, and not answer any questions about immigration status. But all that rehearsal was useless when the police threatened to detain my sister and kids as well for not answering about my brother-in-law’s immigration status.  Out of fear for harm against his family, he admitted he was undocumented and the police dragged him out of the car and took him away. Continue reading

Partnership for Safety and Justice: Oregonians with felonies — you can vote! (and why you should)

By Denise Welch, Contributing Columnist

There has been a lot of national news coverage lately about attempts to change voting laws in a number of states. Many of the laws seem to be designed to keep certain categories of people away from the polls: the elderly, the poor, minorities. Continue reading

PSJ Column: Momentum building for public safety reform in Oregon

By Naivasha Dean, Contributing Columnist

With about eight months to go until our next legislative session, Oregonians can feel the vice-grip of our multi-billion dollar deficit tightening. We are tired of the cuts. We are tired of crisis mode. We are really tired of having to choose between funding our prisons and educating our children — and when K-12 class sizes grow right along with prisons, we’ve made those choices. Likewise, it’s senseless when funding shortages back county law enforcement into a corner — counties such as Josephine County, which has begun dismantling its sheriff’s office and is cutting its road patrol hours in half.

That’s why Partnership for Safety and Justice is happy to be able to share some good news: This imbalance in priorities and spending is being called into question. On May 14, Oregon got two major boosts towards a vital goal: reforming our public safety system to become more cost-efficient and effective. The first leg-up came directly from the desk of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who reconvened a new and expanded Commission on Public Safety, a bipartisan, inter-branch task force charged with figuring out ways to use Oregon’s limited public safety dollars in a smart way. The second came from a national source: The Pew Public Safety Performance Project, which announced that it has decided to step in and provide crucial technical support to the commission’s efforts. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

It’s going to be a great weekend, the weatherman says, with a 100 percent chance of Street Roots coming to a neighborhood near you. Pick up your copy tomorrow morning and share a sunny smile with your friendly vendor. Here’s what’s rolling on the presses now:

Shocked and reloaded: And interview with ’80s icon Michelle Shocked who returns to the stage in Portland this month, sharing with her style of folk with fans, old and new.

Life after war: Photographer Jim Lommasson’s “Exit Wounds” documents the stories, heartbreak and hopes of American veterans returning home from war. His collection of photographs is coupled with his current speaking tour, and is soon to be the subject of a new book.

Making right from wrong: An interview with Fariborz Pakseresht who takes the helm of the Oregon Youth Authority, overseeing the state’s troubled and incarcerated youths.

Write makes might: Davonna Livingston uses writing to help victims of abuse and trauma not only tell their stories, but take back their lives.

The State of Housing: City Commissioner Nick Fish lays out the nuts and bolts of the state of Portland’s housing agenda.

Plus, new commentaries by Melissa Favara, Robin Hahnel and the Partnership for Safety and Justice. And a look at the cash mob movement in St. Johns. This issue is packed! Thank you, and enjoy a beautiful weekend!

Measure 11’s devastating effect on Oregon’s next generation

By Imran Ahmad, Contributing Writer

The passions raised at the mere mention of Measure 11 are well known to most Oregonians. Yet it is surprising how little is actually known about the law, particularly as it applies to youths. People may know that it requires mandatory minimums for certain violent offenses, but do they know that if youths are charged with any of those offenses, they are automatically transferred to the adult criminal justice system?

Very little is known about how Measure 11 is actually implemented, especially with regard to youths. There is little understanding of the real impacts of Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentencing scheme and still, Measure 11 remains a policy that Oregonians, including politicians, have learned not to question. Continue reading

Shackled by old laws, Oregon’s budget is locked in its prisons

By David Rogers, Contributing Columnist

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must drastically reduce its prison population to address overcrowding. With a system capacity rated for 80,000 prisoners, California’s system currently holds 140,000 people, which, in the court’s opinion, creates conditions that qualify as cruel and unusual punishment.

Oregon’s prison problem has not yet reached the extreme crisis level of California, but Oregon’s ever-increasing prison growth and spending should not be dismissed. Oregon obviously has a much smaller general population than California, but, proportionally, Oregon has also experienced dramatic prison growth. Continue reading

Measure 11’s failing scorecard fans sparks of reform

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

Last month, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission released an in-depth and critical study of Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentencing law, Measure 11.

The Justice Commission, composed of legislators, prosecutors, defenders and others involved in criminal justice and charged with monitoring Oregon’s public safety sector, spent one year collecting and analyzing data from the 16 years that Measure 11 has been on the books.

The 83-page report made a number of findings, including who receives Measure 11 sentences, how the law is applied in each of Oregon’s 36 counties, how many people are indicted with Measure 11 crimes but subsequently charged with lesser crimes, and other ways in which Measure 11 has affected Oregon’s criminal justice system.

In all respects, the study found that Measure 11 is not working the way Oregonians were told it would when they voted on the measure in 1994. The report “makes a fair case that it falls short of reaching all of the objectives,” says Department of Corrections director Max Williams.

Measure 11 was sold to voters as a tough-on-crime measure giving prosecutors the power to giving longer prison sentences to the worst of the worst criminals to protect society and victims.

Mandatory minimum sentences requiring a specific prison sentence for a crime, no matter the circumstances, would create consistency in sentencing across the state. And the specter of those long sentences would deter potential criminals from committing crimes.

But many advocates argue the Justice Commission’s report debunks that argument for Measure 11 in its entirety.

“At this point, it’s clear,” that Measure 11 is not working the way it should, says David Rogers, the executive director of the advocacy organization Partnership for Safety and Justice.

Measure 11 has always been a hot-button issue for both tough-on-crime conservatives and liberals arguing that it is too costly and ineffective.

So the Justice Commission’s study leaves one to wonder: Has enough evidence mounted to give opponents of Measure 11 the steam to drive reform?

“People talk about it all the time,” Rogers says. “There are definitely people actively talking about the need to address Measure 11 at the Capitol.”

The Justice Commission’s report is the second critical report on Measure 11 to be released within the past year. Last summer, former Governor Ted Kulongoski’s Reset Cabinet, a group that investigated ways for Oregon to save money, reviewed the measure and recommended that Oregon rein in its prisons spending in order to have a stable budget. One of the main ways to do that, the report said, was to make changes to Measure 11. Continue reading