Monday, January 30, 2017

Prosecutors drive racially disproportionate incarceration in Oregon

Here’s a riddle: What state incarcerates a higher percentage of its black population than Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana?
I’ll bet you didn’t guess Oregon, writes Robert J. Smith a senior fellow at Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, reported Slate.
Indeed, the Beaver State locks up its black citizenry at a rate twice that of Georgia and Mississippi. Oregon also has the second highest rate of youth transferred to adult court after Florida. It is the only state besides Louisiana that allows non-unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases, and it is the only state besides Texas to require “future dangerousness,” a discredited and scientifically bankrupt jury determination, as a determining factor in sentencing people to death.
How does Oregon, a state that has voted blue in every gubernatorial andpresidential election since 1988 and which was one of the first states to legalize marijuana, end up with a criminal justice system that more closely resembles the Deep South than its West Coast neighbors?
The blame lies in significant part with Oregon’s out-of-touch elected prosecutors. These powerful forces within the criminal justice system help to explain the gap between two seemingly incompatible Oregons: one with a governor who has placed a moratorium on executions, and the other whose retrogressive and racially disparate criminal law enforcement policies have led to the seventh highest rate of black imprisonment in the nation.
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