Article VII. Justice — Platform of the Multnomah County Democratic Party

PREAMBLE

The criminal justice system should be reformed so that it operates fairly and equitably, while respecting the dignity and humanity of those interacting with the system. We oppose a criminal justice system that discriminates against people of color and poor people, fails to recognize addiction as a public health issue, promotes mass incarceration and punishment instead of rehabilitation, militarizes the police, fails to meet the needs of individuals returning from incarceration, and fails to adequately fund services that help prevent crime. We call up our government to examine the system’s failings and provide laws and funding to prevent its problems.

PLANKS

  1. We support Community Policing, meaning that local police officers are assigned to a neighborhood in which they get to know its residents, its community groups, and its problems, listen to the needs of the communities they police, and work to establish trust. This is particularly important where there has been a history of negative police interactions with and profiling of people of color, minority religious groups, and any other residents.
  2. We oppose asset forfeiture.
  3. We support unarmed public safety support specialists who are unarmed police officers with full training but no weapons, particularly in marginalized communities throughout Multnomah County. We also support non-police first response to low level situations involving mental and emotional health and substance abuse.
  4. We oppose secretive and overt surveillance that intrudes on personal privacy being used for crime detection.
  5. We believe police should be held accountable if they kill or seriously injure individuals when other options were possible, and that unfounded fear should not be acceptable as a justification for use of deadly force. An independent civilian agency must have explicit jurisdiction in deadly force cases and must have the ability to compel testimony and recommend discipline.
  6. We support legislation requiring police policies, procedures and training which promote accountability, require data collection, and specify conducting analyses to show agencies are holding officers accountable for misconduct.
  7. All police should be adequately trained to emphasize non-violent methods to resolve conflict, de-escalate situations, and ensure compliance with safety.
  8. We support a military gear ban for local police.
  9. We believe money bail should be eliminated because it discriminates against poor people, who are disproportionally people of color, and we oppose excessive penalties and fees for inability to pay fines.
  10. Public Defenders and their staff should have a manageable caseload and should receive the same pay as Prosecutors and their staff, in order to be able to provide good legal representation for all indigent defendants.
  11. We believe police interrogations should be video recorded, in order to prevent intimidation, racial or gender discrimination, coercion, brutality, or any other illegal behavior.
  12. We support the latest scientifically validated methods used for non-suggestive eyewitness identification of suspects, including viewing photos sequentially and using an administrator who does not know who the suspect is.
  13. We oppose racially targeted policing, prosecutorial over-charging, coercive plea bargains, biased jury selection, and any other sentencing practices that result in a disproportional number of people of color and economically disadvantaged people being trapped in the criminal justice system.
  14. We oppose private prisons. We believe no one should profit from the incarceration of others and decisions about prisoner conditions should not depend on the decision makers profit.
  15. We oppose exploitive systems for prisoner phone calls, video visits, and money transfers; communication with family, friends, and children should be encouraged and facilitated.
  16. We oppose profiting from prison labor. This includes unfairly paying a pittance for prisoners’ work while undercutting the work of laborers in the outside community.
  17. We oppose inhumane treatment of prisoners, including solitary confinement used for punishment, shackling of women during childbirth, and ignoring medical conditions needing attention. Appropriate accommodations should be made for elderly prisoners and prisoners with disabilities. We oppose inhumane living conditions for people detained for possible deportation.
  18. Our criminal justice system should shift from retribution to a restorative and rehabilitative system, including more access to programs for all, fair compensation for prisoner employment, shorter sentences, more access to sentence reduction, parole consideration for all, adequate medical and mental health care, and more family support opportunities. Oregon should consider other more humane models, such as the Norwegian system, which are less punitive, more rehabilitative, has shorter sentences, and has less oppressive living conditions. A program of Restorative Justice Encounters between victim and perpetrator should be initiated.
  19. We oppose mandatory minimum sentences. Judges should have discretion to apply sentences based on the unique circumstances of each defendant, crime and victim. All individuals sentenced to prison who demonstrate good behavior or whose behaviors can be safely managed in the community should be eligible for a reduction in sentence. We recognize that mandatory sentencing has disproportionally impacted poor people and people of color in our community.
  20. We believe drug addiction should be treated as a public health issue and managed in the community whenever possible, with more robust funding for treatment. All drug use and possession should be decriminalized, and distribution should be regulated.
  21. Juries should require unanimous verdicts in all felony cases in Oregon, as is required in every other state.
  22. We support funding to end violence against women and transgender individuals and to stop human trafficking. Un-coerced sex work should not be criminalized.
  23. We support the strengthening of Oregon guns laws, in part to reduce suicide, homicide, and accidental shootings. We support universal background checks, gun owner licensing, mandatory classes on gun safety and accuracy, safe storage, liability insurance, and risk assessments.
  24. We oppose the death penalty and Life without Parole sentences.
  25. We support more funding of programs that facilitate the integration of previously incarcerated people into society. We oppose unnecessary discrimination in housing and in educational and job opportunities which unfairly burdens formerly incarcerated individuals.
  26. We support the 2019 Justice Reinvestment legislation, which focuses funding on often-underserved communities such as people of color, rural residents, and Native Americans.

LEGISLATIVE ACTION ITEMS

  1. We believe that the voters of Oregon should abolish the Death Penalty and life without parole sentencing.
  2. We call for the repeal of all mandatory minimum sentencing in Oregon, substituting Guidelines in its place, and allowing a judge to have discretion in all cases.
  3. We call on the State Legislature to pass pay equity legislation for Public Defenders and Prosecutors and their staffs.
  4. We call on Legislators to enact a law to allow individuals with a Measure 11 mandatory sentence to earn 10 percent “good time” to match the Federal standard.
  5. We call on the State Legislature to establish a “permit-to-purchase” system for firearms.
  6. We call on the Legislature to create a law regarding safe storage of firearms.
  7. The Oregon Legislature should do away with cash bail, which discriminates against poor people, who are disproportionally people of color.
  8. We believe legislation should be passed to require unanimous jury verdicts in all felony cases.
  9. We call on the Oregon Legislature to provide funding for assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals, for housing, jobs, job training, education, treatment, and basic needs such as clothing and food.
  10. We believe that FOSTA/SESTA, a Federal law intended to address human trafficking with unintended negative consequences on consensual sex work, should be changed to decriminalize sex workers’ ability to bank money, screen clients, and organize.[1]
  11. We believe a pilot program should be established to arm the Oregon State Police with Smart Guns that are designed to operate only in the hands of an authorized user.
  12. We support legislation to ensure that the housing of transgender and non-binary prisoners in both prisons and jails provides for their safety, that gender identity is respected, and that transgender females should not be assigned to a men’s facility. The legislation should also require that all relevant health care needs of transgender individuals are addressed during incarceration or detention.
  13. We advocate for the review and promotion of alternatives to incarceration including: Prisoners in jails and prisons who are diagnosed with mental illness and/or drug addiction; Women in jails because of the lack of affordability of making bail and during incarceration; Increasing and improving contacts of prisoners, especially women, with their minor children.

[1] The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) are known as the FOSTA-SESTA package. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Enabling_Sex_Traffickers_Act