December 1, 2020
Today, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel presented for the Multnomah Bar Association CLE seminar, “How Prosecutorial Policies and Discretion Can Aid in Ending Systemic Racism in the Criminal Justice System.”
Among other topics, District Attorney Hummel discussed three programs his office is utilizing to improve public safety and reduce racism, including the “Clean Slate” program, the “Veterans Intervention Strategy” program and the “Emerging Adult Program,” which will launch in Deschutes County in February of 2021.
DA Hummel’s “Emerging Adult Program” will provide people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are suspected of committing certain crimes the attention and treatment appropriate for them – recognizing that brain science informs us that adolescent brains continue to develop until a person is approximately 25 years of age. If people in the program successfully complete what is asked of them they will exit the system without a criminal conviction on their record.
Among other topics, District Attorney Schmidt discussed House Bill 2355 (2017), which examined and addressed racial and ethnic disparities in drug convictions. HB 2355 reclassified the crime of Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCS) to a Class A misdemeanor from a Class B or C Felony.
Additionally, DA Schmidt discussed the prosecutorial discretion available to all individual district attorneys across the country to reduce and eliminate disparities.
As an example, in the fall of 2016, the Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington County District Attorney Offices started examining Interfering with Public Transportation (IPT) cases that were submitted for prosecution consideration involving persons riding TriMet without fare. The report confirmed similar prosecution findings that among persons riding TriMet who do not pay fare, Black individuals were excluded from TriMet property at a disproportionately higher rate than White individuals.
The three district attorneys were concerned that the racial disparity could lead to unjust results in the criminal justice system and decided to no longer prosecute IPT offenses based on fare evasion exclusions.
“This work is challenging, it’s intensive and time consuming. … In the District Attorney’s Office, we have an opportunity to thoughtfully look at cases and to craft a solution that get at why and how that person got into the criminal justice system in the first place instead of being reactive and just sending that person to prison,” District Attorney Schmidt said.
For over 100 years, the Multnomah Bar Association (MBA) has provided a forum for lawyers to gather together for collegiality, to improve the justice system, to provide law-related community service and to access services and benefits that strengthen professionalism, satisfaction and success.