Submitted by ACLU of Oregon on July 9, 2015 - 10:45am
By Executive Director David Rogers
There are some serious problems we need to tackle in our criminal justice system, like dramatic prison growth and spending in the U.S. We are dumping billions of dollars into locking people up while ignoring the strategies best designed to create safe and healthy communities. Meanwhile, the racial disparity in sentencing and incarceration rates is one of the biggest drivers of inequality for communities of color in the country.
As Oregon’s legislative session just ended, I am pleased to see meaningful progress being made on criminal justice reform. The ACLU of Oregon was active in passing legislation to tackle racial profiling, reducing employment barriers for people with conviction histories, and helping to increase police accountability. This progress was the result of democracy in action: thousands of our members and allies reaching out to their legislators to advocate for smarter justice.
But there is an element of our democratic process that is seriously malnourished and it has a direct relationship to our ability shift criminal justice policies in the right direction. I’m talking about the election of District Attorneys.
Here in Oregon, our chief prosecutors in each county are elected by a vote of the people. Yet the public doesn’t normally engage District Attorneys as elected leaders who need to be held accountable to the values we hold about what a fair, unbiased, and smart criminal justice system looks like. This dynamic needs to change.
Submitted by ACLU of Oregon on June 30, 2015 - 5:16pm
By Executive Director David Rogers
On July 1, 2015, the possession and use of marijuana by adults over 21 years of age becomes legal in Oregon. With the passage of Measure 91 last November, the voters of Oregon sent a clear message that it is time to end the criminalization of marijuana.
Oregon has been at the forefront of marijuana reform in America. In 1973, Oregon was the first state to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana; was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 and will now become one of the first states to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adult use. And the ACLU of Oregon was influential in bringing about each of these reforms because the War on Marijuana has been a dismal and costly failure.
The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars nationwide. We are at a tipping point in regard to public recognition that the war on drugs is a failed strategy.
ACLU of Oregon Applauds Decision that Brings Marriage Equality to Every State
June 26, 2015 - We applaud the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court declaring same-sex couples have the freedom to marry and to receive equal respect for their marriages across America. Today’s decision by the high Court affirms the conclusion reached last year that Oregon’s marriage ban was unconstitutional.
“This is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. We can celebrate that America is a place where hearts and minds can change and we believe in liberty and justice for all,” said Jann Carson, associate director of the ACLU of Oregon.
In 2013, the ACLU of Oregon filed one of the two cases that successfully challenged Oregon’s marriage ban. On May 19, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled that the state marriage ban violated the federal equal protection rights of same-sex couples wishing to marry.
“We are overjoyed with the Supreme Court’s decision today,” said Christine Tanner. She and her now wife, Lisa Chickadonz, were one of the four plaintiff couples, along with Basic Rights Oregon, who successfully challenged Oregon’s marriage ban with the help of the ACLU of Oregon. “The journey to reach this point has been a legal and emotional rollercoaster ride that has, for us, gone on for more than 25 years. To have the highest Court in our country end marriage discrimination once and for all is monumental. We are grateful that ride is finally over, not only for us but for families like ours across the nation.”
The Oregon legislature has made it clear the public has the right to openly record police by passing HB 2704. It is now headed to the Governor’s desk.
June 16, 2015 - Bystander video of police encounters can be very powerful, as recent events have shown. We can all agree it should not be a crime to pull out a phone, hold it up, and record an officer who is engaged in misconduct. However, under the current Oregon law, it is a crime to record a conversation without "specifically informing" the parties to the conversation. The problem is obvious — it may not always be safe or reasonable to provide a warning; for example, when the officer is engaged in misconduct or if the officer is dealing with a dangerous situation. When the Governor signs HB 2704 into law, the right to openly record police will be protected in Oregon.
Over 1,700 ACLU supporters took action on this issue by contacting their legislators in Salem. Together, our voices were heard! Thank you to everyone who took a stand for the right to film police in Oregon.
April 28, 2015 - We are thrilled to introduce David Rogers who will take the helm of the ACLU of Oregon on June 1, 2015. David has more than 25 years of social justice organizing, advocacy, and organizational development experience, and the last 15 years have been rooted in Oregon.
As the former Executive Director of Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ), he spent nearly a decade leading groundbreaking work in the areas of criminal justice and public safety. This past year he consulted with national foundations to identify promising approaches to dismantle the policies and impacts of mass incarceration and criminalization.
David is a person of vision, a proven advocate, and a well-respected leader. He has extensive relationships with Oregon advocacy organizations rooted in communities of color and groups working around gender justice, immigration, economic and environmental justice, and civic engagement.
Past criminal history shouldn’t limit job opportunities
We strongly support the "Ban the Box" bill - HB 3025 , which helps to remove roadblocks to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. This bill would prevent employers from asking prospective employees about past criminal histories on job applications until after a conditional offer of employment is made.
After serving their debt to society, many ex-offenders are denied the opportunity to work based solely on their conviction. This makes it difficult if not impossible for individuals with a criminal record to re-enter society successfully and be able to earn a living. With a criminal justice system that is dominated by racial disparities, people of color are disproportionately harmed by employers’ criminal background check procedures.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), more than 650,000 individuals are released from prison every year. One of the key elements they identified for successful re-entry into our communities is helping these individuals find and keep a job. If ex-offenders are to succeed as law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, they must have a chance at finding employment – particularly in this tough economic climate.