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 use. And in 2021, the Foundation released a new grant opportunity for equitable housing that aims to address the linkage between jail incarceration and housing instability. 

*Last updated January 2022

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

Transition from the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program model to the Providing Access To Hope model

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program was a pre-booking diversion program based on a model developed in Seattle, Wash. in 2011 and has been replicated across the country. The program allowed 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. 

The acknowledgement that representatives of the criminal legal system don’t offer an ideal response for individuals struggling with substance use disorder — combined with the shifting legal and political landscape — necessitated an overhaul of LEAD, especially in light of the decriminalization of small levels of drug possession through Ballot Measure 110. Unlike the LEAD program model, which relied on local law enforcement to make referrals to a treatment agency, the Providing Access to Hope (PATH) program model leverages their expertise to identify people who are involved in the criminal legal system, or to confirm their involvement. PATH outreach workers then work with those individuals to identify and overcome barriers that were preventing them from accessing addiction treatment services.

Complete

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program has been converted to the Providing Access to Hope (PATH) program, which helps those who are unsheltered, close to experiencing homelessness, and/or at risk of becoming involved with the justice system, get connected to treatment for a substance use disorder. It also connects people to behavioral health and recovery services, and helps them overcome barriers that can keep them out of housing. 

The goal of PATH is to help people avoid the trauma of homelessness by working with clients to develop problem solving skills, work toward recovery goals, help them build a solid foundation of recovery and access a stable place to live.

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 Progress Funding from the MacArthur Foundation ended in August 2020 and the program is now supported entirely by Multnomah County. The Department of Community Justice (DCJ) is working with the Diane Wade House Community Advisory Board to develop a Request for Proposal for the next iteration of the program. That solicitation went out in the fall of 2021 to select a new provider. 

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

*Last updated January 2022

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 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

Since hiring an outside facilitator in December 2020, the effort to bring together community and criminal legal system stakeholders to envision a new, implementable vision of a just public safety system — known now as the Transforming Justice Initiative — has begun its work in earnest. A core visioning team, which is composed of experts in behavioral health, housing and public safety, has met weekly since January to explore strategies that grow health and housing responses and shrink the legal system footprint. 

In May 2021, a Transforming Justice steering committee met for the first time. Unlike the core visioning group, which works to lay the conceptual and strategic groundwork for the work ahead, the steering committee carries decision-making authority that will push the initiative ahead. The steering committee consists of approximately 35 people who influence or have been affected by the criminal legal system, including local elected officials and executives who administer the criminal legal, housing and health systems; victims of crime; victim services providers; representatives from the advocacy community; and individuals with lived experience in justice and behavioral health systems.

The Steering Committee met again in summer and fall 2021 to review and approve the discovery plan proposed by the working group. The plan involves outreach to a number of stakeholders in the criminal legal system to obtain their feedback on how the system should change. Throughout late 2021, members of the working group have conducted surveys, one-on-one meetings, and group sessions with people and organizations across Multnomah County. That includes individuals with lived experience in the criminal legal system; behavioral health providers; political leaders; people living with a mental health and/or substance abuse diagnosis; criminal justice agencies; and BIPOC community leaders. This information will be gathered and shared with the Steering Committee in early 2022.