The work of transforming the decentralized, multifunctional and multi-jurisdictional criminal legal system requires tremendous collaboration and political will. Multnomah County is leading the local effort to create a public safety system that is equitable, restorative and responsive. Through the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC), the County gathers decision makers to identify ways in which the system perpetuates cycles of harm and to implement changes that reorient how and when individuals interact with the system, and redefines the assumptions on which the system has long operated. And as we continue to make progress, we will seek to have our next steps informed more and more by the perspectives of community members who have lived experience with the criminal legal system.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) is a national effort to help local communities reduce their overreliance on jail by changing the way we think about and use those facilities. Multnomah County has participated in the initiative since 2015. It has resulted in the development of new policies, programs and strategies that reduce the County’s jail bed use.

*Last updated December 2020

Status Key:
In Research: Assessing feasibility and best practices

In Discussion: Engaging stakeholders

In Progress: Implementation is underway

Complete: Commitment fulfilled
Commitment Status Status Note

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)

This pre-booking diversion program was developed in Seattle, Wash. in 2011 and has now been replicated across the country. Acknowledging the criminal system is not a good response for individuals struggling with drug addiction, the program allows police officers to redirect low-level offenders involved in drug activity to intensive case management services tailored to the individual's needs instead of jail and prosecution.

In Discussion

The program has been up and running for the past three years, but the criminal legal landscape has shifted dramatically in that time. The Behavioral Health Division and the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council have met with stakeholders, including the current service provider, law enforcement and the National LEAD Support Bureau, to determine what a new model would look like. The Division is currently developing a range of options for consideration, and will also engage the community to solicit feedback.

The Diane Wade House 

Funding from the MacArthur Foundation led to the development of the Diane Wade House, an Afrocentric transitional housing program designed to meet the needs of Black women who are involved in the criminal legal system. Launched in 2019, the House offers a variety of daytime services, including mentoring and life-skills programs. The program is part of the County’s overall strategy to reduce unnecessary incarceration and reduce the number of African Americans who are over-represented in the criminal legal system.
In Discussion Funding from the MacArthur Foundation ended in August 2020 and the program is now supported entirely by Multnomah County. The Department of Community Justice is evaluating the current program, and held a series of community meetings in November to determine its next steps. DCJ will continue to partner and elevate the Diane Wade House Community Advisory Board to ensure that community voices are included and help guide decisions regarding how the women living in the house are being served.

Pretrial system reform

In February 2020, the MacArthur Foundation officially announced additional funding for Multnomah County’s SJC efforts. This new initiative is examining the current pretrial system, with the goal of creating a smarter and more equitable system based on risk, while centering the work on the principle that all people are innocent until proven otherwise. 

In Research

System partners are continuing to meet, gather data and develop proposals for redesigning the system, with a goal of implementing a new pretrial justice system by 2022.

System Transformation

Commitment Status Status Note

Building the system our community deserves

For decades, a complete overhaul and transformation of the criminal legal system was seen as a lofty, long-term goal and that allowed public safety systems and leaders to defer their responsibility to create change. Efforts to tinker with policy changes have only led to incremental change. What has resulted is continued harm against people of color. That cannot continue.

Multnomah County believes that criminal legal system transformation is an urgent matter. That’s why the County used the 2020 What Works in Public Safety Conference to launch a new, urgent project focused on doing just that. The January 2020 conference brought together local and national experts from healthcare, human services, law enforcement and the judiciary, as well as defense attorneys, community providers, elected officials and victims’ rights advocates. The conference helped focus attention on strategies to improve a system that is inadequately equipped to respond to behavior rooted in social problems such as racism and poverty. 

In Progress

Multnomah County has selected an outside facilitator to lead this massive undertaking of developing, aligning and implementing strategies for real system change. The project will engage criminal system leaders, health system leaders, elected officials, providers, victims of crime and individuals with lived experience. A broad steering committee is being assembled to help lead this work.