June 2012

State Law Prevents “Show Me Your Papers” Laws in Oregon

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Following Monday’s Supreme Court decision in State v. Arizona, it is more important than ever that Oregonians are aware of and understand the long-standing legal protection in our state that ensures that Oregon will not become Arizona.

Section 2(b) of Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070 requires Arizona police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that person is not in the country legally. While the Supreme Court decisively struck down the remainder of the unconstitutional and anti-immigrant provisions of Arizona’s law, it declined to strike down this “show me your papers” provision, sending the issue back to the lower courts to rule on whether the law could be interpreted narrowly enough to avoid constitutional violations. The Supreme Court’s decision not to immediately strike down this portion of S.B. 1070 is a dangerous mistake that immediately puts in jeopardy the rights of innocent individuals, as it is very likely that implementation of the law will result in racial profiling and prolonged detention of people in Arizona.

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ACLU of Oregon Challenges Unconstitutional Mail Policy in Jackson County Jail

By David Schor, Legal Intern, ACLU of Oregon

UPDATE: June 21, 2012 - The Medford Mail-Tribune reports today that Jackson County Sheriff Winters has reversed the jail’s mail policy and will once again treat ACLU mail to and from inmates as the privileged mail that it is. This is welcomed news but we aren’t dismissing our lawsuit just yet. We look forward to learning more specifics about the Sheriff’s plan to change the jail mail policy.

On June 6, 2012, the ACLU of Oregon filed suit in federal court to challenge Jackson County Jail’s unconstitutional inmate mail policy. The U.S. and Oregon Constitutions protect the free speech rights of inmates and those who wish to communicate with them. However, over the past two years a number of Oregon counties have adopted policies that severely restrict inmate mail. These policies have limited acceptable mail to postcards and have negatively impacted prisoners by forcing inmates to either expose private information such as passwords, bank records, intimate correspondence between spouses, and other sensitive content, or else forgo written communication on those important subjects. Even inmates who have not been convicted of any crime are subject to these restrictions during pre-trial detention. On May 29, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon held that Columbia County Jail’s “postcard only” policy violated the First Amendment, finding that limiting correspondence to and from jails to postcards was not rationally related to a legitimate and neutral governmental objective because it did nothing to increase jail security.

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Commission on Public Safety Reconvenes, Aims for Sentencing Reform in 2013

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Smart reform of our criminal justice system is possible. With rates of incarceration in Oregon at historic highs, policymakers are turning to address an issue that the ACLU has been litigating and advocating on for decades. We can create a criminal justice system that is both fair and effective and there is real momentum to do so now.

Last week, Governor Kitzhaber’s Commission on Public Safety reconvened in Salem, welcoming new members and charting out a work plan for the months leading up to the 2013 legislative session. The Commission’s charge is clear: in the face of a state budget in crisis and unceasing growth in prison population, find smart and sustainable ways to reduce corrections spending and protect public safety.

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