Oregon Mandatory Laws Push Black Youth Behind Bars

A new report says that the state’s Measure 11 law disproportionately places African-American youth into the adult criminal justice system.

Posted: 08/12/2011 08:24 AM EDT

(Photo: Courtesy of the Partnership for Safety and Justice)

According to a new report, an oversized number of Black youth are being pushed into Oregon’s adult criminal justice system based on mandatory sentencing laws.

 

The report, “Misguided Measures,” was released by the Partnership for Safety and Justice and the Campaign for Youth and Justice, a Washington, D.C.,-based group that advocates removing youth from the adult system.

 

It found that Measure 11, a 1994 Oregon law passed requiring youth charged with one or more of 21 violent crimes be tried as adults, and if convicted be sentenced as adults, affected a large number of African-American youth. These sentences as adults, the study authors argued, does not reduce the juvenile crime rate and it serves as a primary avenue for young people to wind up in adult court.   

 

Currently in Oregon, African-Americans account for four percent of the state’s youth population, but 19 percent of the Measure 11 indictments.

 

"There has been overcharging for African-American youth on the front end," Shannon Wight, one of the report's authors told a local Oregon publication. "Those adult charges create lifelong challenges."

 

Last month amid complaints of the sentencing laws, Oregon’s Governor John Kitzhaber announced a new commission to examine the state’s sentencing laws and practices.

 

 

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