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.
Criminal justice advocates and leaders call upon you to start now on implementing important drug policy reforms.
November 20, 2014 – Although Oregon voters passed Measure 91 with a 12-point margin, implementation of this better, smarter approach to marijuana policy will not be complete until the first half of 2016. We don't have to wait until then to start to mitigate the damage done by decades of criminalization, wasted law enforcement time and squandered taxpayer money.
Prosecutors in Oregon's largest county have already decided to dismiss, and stop prosecuting, marijuana-related offenses that would no longer exist under Measure 91. Other county prosecutors should follow Multnomah County's lead.
A strong majority of Oregon voters have directed the state to stop treating marijuana as a crime and to better prioritize our limited law enforcement resources. With so many lives and so much money at stake, waiting would be unreasonable and clearly damaging to Oregon's communities. We should work quickly to limit the damage already caused by a feckless war against marijuana.
We urge you to cease enforcement of marijuana laws that will no longer exist when provisions of Measure 91 take effect in July.
Law enforcement’s war on marijuana is a failure and has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at a tremendous human and fiscal cost. Shifting Oregon away from the unsuccessful prohibition model towards a more effective harm reduction model long has been a high priority for the ACLU and our staff helped draft Ballot Measure 91.
Legalizing, regulating and taxing the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older will bring a new approach to our drug laws, making them more fair, more compassionate, and smarter at reducing drug dependency and improving public health and safety. We urge a YES vote.
June 17, 2014 - “We need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars arresting and searching people in Oregon just because they use marijuana,” said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Prohibition hasn’t worked and it never will. It’s time to be honest about that and take a path that makes sense.”
The New Approach Oregon campaign is collecting signatures to qualify an initiative for the November ballot. The initiative would strictly regulate marijuana sales and possession, legalize the use of marijuana by adults 21 and over only, and tax marijuana and its products, generating money for important public services like education, public safety and drug treatment
ACLU Submits Comments to Federal Court in Anticipation of February Hearing
February 3, 2014 - On Friday the ACLU submitted comments to the federal court in support of a Settlement Agreement between Portland Police Bureau, the City of Portland, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the Portland Police’s unconstitutional practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness or experiencing mental health crisis. The comments come at the request of Judge Michael Simon, who on February 18th will hold a Fairness Hearing in his courtroom to determine whether the pending Settlement Agreement is fair and adequate to address the claims made by the DOJ after a lengthy investigation.
The Settlement Agreement is by no means perfect. We share concerns with other community advocates for police reform that the Agreement does not adequately address needed changes to the system of accountability for officer misconduct. And we fear that without stronger “teeth,” even the modest changes to the Portland Police that are mandated in the Agreement will never be implemented.
For almost two years leading up to the 2013 session, a group of legislators, judges, and criminal justice officials and stakeholders met as the Governor’s Commission on Public Safety to examine ways that Oregon can control anticipated growth in prison population and public safety spending. In December 2012 the Commission submitted its report to the Governor, which outlined several options for policy changes to address these issues. This session, the Joint Committee on Public Safety took up consideration of the options in the form of HB 3194.
Representative Wally Hicks (R-Grants Pass) introduced HB 2962 that would have brought Oregon’s speedy trial rules in line with protections provided by the U.S. and Oregon constitutions. Under existing law, Oregon’s statutes provide greater protection of the right to a speedy trial than do the constitutions.
UPDATE - The City of Portland, PPB, and USDOJ have reached agreement on the terms of their settlement. The ACLU has reviewed this agreement and presented testimony at the City Council hearing on November 1.
October 25, 2012 - Prompted by a condemning report by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), which found that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) has engaged in systemic overuse of force particularly against persons with mental illness, PPB drafted revisions to its policies on Use of Force, Use of Deadly Force, and Tasers. PPB posted these drafts for comment and the ACLU of Oregon has responded with detailed recommendations for improvement.
September 27, 2012 - The ACLU of Oregon and our allies in police accountability advocacy submitted detailed recommendations to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), urging comprehensive reforms to the policies and practices of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). The recommendations were compiled in response to a September 12th report from DOJ, concluding that PPB employs unnecessary and excessive use of force on persons with mental illness. DOJ invited members of the community to provide input as to the terms of an agreement between DOJ and the City of Portland regarding reforms the PPB will undertake. The stated deadline for finalizing the agreement is October 12th.
Representative Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene) is a champion in the legislature of government efficiency. As Vice-Chair of the Joint Ways & Means Committee, which writes the state budget, the representative is constantly looking for ways to streamline government’s work to save the state money. To that end, she introduced HB 4091 to require the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to convene a workgroup to examine and develop recommendations around how the state can improve its systems for performing criminal background checks.
The statute of limitations serves an important function in the criminal justice system. Its purpose and design is to permit both the prosecution and the defense to present a case before the evidence gets stale.
On February 6, 2012, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Albrecht issued an opinion in the case of several persons arrested at an Occupy Portland protest. Each of the defendants had been initially charged with at least one misdemeanor crime and the District Attorney elected to “charge down” to violations.
Citing the intent to target flash mob theft, an occurrence seen in other states whereby a group of people engage in a crime simultaneously, making it more difficult for any one individual to be detected, stopped, or caught, Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) introduced SB 1534. The bill created the felony crime of aggravated solicitation for persons who use electronic communication to solicit two or more persons to commit a crime.
SB 1557 was brought forward by Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend) at the request of a few police officers in Bend. The officers wanted to address incidents of high school students coming to school under the influence of drugs – most often, marijuana. They claim that their officers in schools do not have the tools they need to penalize these students – punishment that they see as necessary to early intervention and treatment for substance abuse.
February 29, 2012 - UPDATE: This week the Eugene City Council voted to extend their downtown exclusion zone for another seven months. ACLU of Oregon has opposed this program since it was first established in 2008. (See our briefing paper below to learn more.) This is the second time this ordinance has been renewed and although we are disappointed with the extension we recognize that it might have been worse – there were enough votes on the city council to extend it for two years or even make it permanent.
This session, because of the evenly divided House, it was easier to stop than to pass a bill. The ACLU nevertheless spearheaded the passage of SB 731, culminating a ten-year effort to bring added protection to the criminal justice system regarding the preservation and use of evidence containing biological material (DNA) to prove innocence.
A constitutional amendment to weaken our search and seizure provision (Article I, section 9) of the Oregon Constitution was introduced for the third session in a row.HJR 25 would have amended the constitution to authorize law enforcement to use roadblocks to stop and question individuals to detect drunk drivers without any individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.
Introduced by Rep. Barker (D-Aloha), HB 3085 expands the requirement by health care providers to notify law enforcement of the results of a blood test performed in the course of treatment if the blood contains a controlled substance and the person is believed to have been the operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident.
This session, like last session, saw the introduction of a proposal to allow the collection of DNA from those arrested. SB 881, at the behest of Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem), would have required local law enforcement to collect a DNA sample of individuals arrested for any felony crimes committed against another person, all sex crimes and burglary in the first degree. SB 881 would have authorized the collection of biological evidence from individuals prior to any determination of guilt and without the requisite court order after a showing of probable cause.
The ACLU opposed HB 3057, introduced by Representatives Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone), Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard) and Jeff Barker (D- Aloha), which would have removed any statute of limitations for sex-related crimes if the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime. Under this bill, a person could be charged with a crime decades after the alleged event.
Ballot Measure 74 builds on Oregon’s current medical marijuana law that the ACLU of Oregon helped draft in 1998. Currently, medical marijuana patients can only legally access medical marijuana in two ways: grow it themselves or obtain it from an authorized grower, who by law may only grow for a few people. Other than that, the only way a qualified patient may obtain medical marijuana is on the black market. For many patients the result is that they either cannot access medical marijuana or they must obtain it illegally. The ACLU of Oregon supports de-criminalizing medical marijuana and Measure 74 advances that effort by creating both a legal and safe means for qualified patients to obtain the medication they need.
Ballot Measure 73 is sponsored by Kevin Mannix, who brought us Measure 11 in 1994 which enacted mandatory minimum prison sentencing in Oregon for violent felonies. The ACLU of Oregon opposed Measure 11 because we oppose mandatory minimum sentencing.
SB 310 builds on Oregon’s DNA innocence law passed a few years ago allowing a person convicted of murder, a “person” felony or certain sex crimes to request testing of evidence for DNA that was obtained in the original criminal investigation. ACLU worked to pass what was a temporary law when it was first introduced in 2001 and led the effort in 2007 to make it a permanent part of Oregon law. That law establishes a procedure to request testing but does not address the question of retaining evidence so that it can be tested years later.
Beginning in the 1990s, the Oregon legislature began authorizing FBI fingerprint criminal history checks for school teachers. Over the years, this authority has expanded greatly to include most state agencies that grant licenses or hire employees in “sensitive” positions. In 2005, ACLU worked on omnibus legislation in this area (HB 2157). We supported certain provisions of that proposal because it included new uniform safeguards and due process protections for all persons subject to FBI background checks and maintained the requirement that the fingerprints be destroyed after the background check.
As we anticipated, a number of bills were introduced to allow employers to terminate an employee who is a medical marijuana cardholder without any evidence of actual impairment on the job. The ACLU opposed HB 2497, HB 2881 and HB 3052 (and had concerns about HB 2503) because in one form or another the bills included this type of power for employers.
Southern Oregon Chapter Questions Harsh Laws Targeting People Who Are Homeless
Oct. 13, 2008 -- The Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon calls upon the City of Ashland to amend its “Prohibited Camping” ordinance from one that punishes poverty and homelessness into one that prods the city to provide housing for the homeless.
New Rules Protect Death With Dignity and Medical Marijuana Acts
December 11, 2007 - As a result of ACLU of Oregon lobbying efforts with Portland Mayor Tom Potter, Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer has issued an executive order that specifically prohibits any police assistance with investigations or prosecutions for persons who are acting under the authority of Oregon’s Death with Dignity or Medical Marijuana acts.
David Rogers, ACLU of Oregon’s executive director, said:
“Governor Brown’s executive order is a meaningful action that reaffirms our state agencies and employees will uphold Oregon’s values of nondiscrimination and inclusiveness. These shared values are an integral part of making Oregon a vibrant and flourishing state that strives to treat all people with respect and dignity.