W. Haywood Burns Institute releases report on Racial and Ethnic Disparities

November 25, 2019

  • Click here to download the full report released on the Multnomah County’s Local Public Safety Coordinating Council website

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office remains fully committed to appropriately addressing racial and ethnic disparities in a thoughtful, systematic and meaningful way. Similarly, this office remains dedicated to improving our understanding and awareness of the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. In order for there to be meaningful change, we must actually change and remain committed to that ideal. To that end, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, working with our system partners, continues to benefit from a rich and collaborative, several year relationship with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and its Safety and Justice Challenge to implement data-informed policies that reduce our reliance on jail and prison beds while simultaneously reducing the disparities within our local community justice system.

The Safety and Justice Challenge recently provided the public with an updated “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Multnomah County” report. The original report, issued in 2016, resulted in a dedicated pursuit from this office to better identify outcomes for our communities, in particular for our minority communities. Since that report, my office and the community has benefited from careful and critical examinations of our public safety system through a lens of equity, fairness, safety and justice as we analyze the racial and ethnic disparities in Multnomah County.

There is a lot to learn from this most recent report, but whether disparities exist is not one of them; we know that fact to be true. In this report – compiled by the W. Haywood Burns Institute – we see an increase in disparities in some of seven decision points analyzed. The report also shows some modest, and some substantial, improvements in other areas including prosecutorial-specific data points. We are proud of that progress but recognize more work needs to be done to critically analyze where disparities are found, challenge each other with answering the question of why those disparities exist and then to focus on identifying and implementing additional solutions.

Addressing the disparities in the criminal justice system will continue to take intentionality, time, resources and participation from all parties. There is no one-size fits all approach, but what is needed is a unified front from all system partners. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is a committed partner of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, which helps coordinate local criminal justice policy and addresses racial and ethnic disparity issues in our community.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office works intentionally to identify racial and ethnic disparities and to promptly address those matters. The members of this office strive to ensure all similarly situated individuals involved in the criminal justice system are treated fairly and with dignity and respect to obtain an equitable outcome. As District Attorney, I firmly believe we achieve that expectation every day while being aware that improvements are possible with continued training, education and examination of potential policy adjustments system wide.

In order for there to be actual change, we must actually change and remain committed to that concept.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is committed to the open and balanced administration of justice—one that honors and respects diversity in all of its forms. As an office, we move forward with a promise to continue the momentum underway that has already reduced some disparities – but also with a promise to do better. We must do better as an organization and as a system to proactively address policies and practices that will ensure our justice system is fair for everyone and to ensure that all members of that system are held accountable.