Oregon study finds racial disparities in drug convictions
Gov. Kate Brown asked the agency to examine racial and ethnical disparities earlier this year. The study is the first of its kind in Oregon.
Lawmakers are expected to consider Brown’s proposal to reduce some drug-possession felonies to misdemeanors. That policy shift would treat addiction as a public-health issue and address the racial and ethnic disparities, and it is supported by associations representing Oregon sheriffs and police chiefs, according to the governor’s budget.
Brown requested the analysis after reading the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander, according to spokesman Bryan Hockaday.
Brown “wanted to get a better handle on the reality here in the state because the first step to really addressing it in a comprehensive way is really understanding what the problem is,” explained Hockaday.
Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said he wasn’t surprised by the state’s findings.
Underhill said his office has done its own work looking at racial and ethnic disparities and is planning to roll out programs next month to reduce inequality and move addicts toward treatment.
“I want to do better by our community,” said Underhill. “We want to be fair in our criminal justice system to all individuals.”
That conviction disparity held true in methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine cases statewide, according to a study by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.