Outlawing bias

In 1994, a sprawling task force led by the Oregon Supreme Court developed 72 recommendations for reducing disparities in the criminal justice system. Most bills targeting reform in the Oregon Legislature failed. New bills target police profiling and drug decriminalization in 2017 – does Oregon have the political will to pass them?

Justice disparate by race in Oregon

A project in Oregon parsed more than 5.5 million court records to find that equal justice remains an elusive goal for the state’s more than 650,000 black and Latino residents. Upon hearing the findings, the state senate’s president, Peter Courtney, called them “alarming” while Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who is leading legislative reforms on police profiling, called it “embarrassing” that reporters were first to analyze the state’s data.

The high costs of disparities for people of color in Multnomah County

An analysis of more than a decade of court records in Oregon found that African-Americans paid $21.5 million more than whites for committing the same crimes. The finding proves there’s more than just police profiling at work in a system that treats African-Americans more harshly than whites, but police practices remain a factor in overcharging.

About this project

The Unequal Justice project is collaboration between InvestigateWest, the Pamplin Media Group, and independent journalist Kate Willson with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting reviewed and refined the methodology and analysis, and researcher Mark G. Harmon from the Portland State University Criminology & Criminal Justice Department provided statistical review and analysis.

Methodology

An Oregon reporting project analyzed 5.8 million criminal and violation cases comprising 8.4 million charges filed in the state’s 36 counties. It focused on 5.5 million charges filed between January 2005 and June 2016.