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Solutions: What's Working?

Oregon is nationally recognized as a leader in the effort to address minority over-representation in the juvenile justice system because of its long-standing commitment to rethink and ultimately improve its juvenile justice system. Since 1988, the Oregon Commission on Community Children and Youth Services Commission (and its successor, the Oregon Commission on Children and Families) have been studying the problem of disproportionate over-representation of minority youth in secure facilities and developing strategies to address the problem. Between 1992 and 1996, Oregon implemented six pilot projects to address the overrepresentation issue: a system wide cross-cultural training program, the implementation of a juvenile detention alternative initiative in Multnomah County and a major overhaul of the entire juvenile system (Oregon Supreme Court Implementation Committee).



Administrative Reform: The Oregon state legislature created the Oregon Commission on Children and Families (the Commission) to build on efforts by both the Juvenile Services Commission and the Oregon Community Children and Youth Services Commission and provide comprehensive planning for the "wellness" of all children. The Commission funds and monitors initiatives by county commissions to serve the needs of children and their families in their communities. Localities must fulfill 10 guiding principles established by the legislature to receive Commission funds. Among them, a community's ethnic, cultural and language diversity must be an integral component of comprehensive planning.

The Hispanic Youth on the Move Project (Malheur County)
Funded by the Commission on Children and Families in 1994, the Mexican American Citizens League designed this initiative to reduce over-representation of Hispanic youth in confinement through intervention strategies (e.g., mentoring), improved relationships with juvenile practitioners (e.g., providing interpretation services), and a computer tracking system.



Law Enforcement Non-Discrimination Resolution
In April 1999 the Portland Police Bureau, metro area Chiefs and Sheriffs, and the Superintendent of the State Police joined together with their union and labor representatives to sign the Law Enforcement Non-Discrimination Resolution. This resolution took a strong stand against the practice of race-based profiling, or any type of discrimination within the scope of daily contact with community members.

Portland Police Bureau Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling (Multnomah County)
In May 2000 Chief Mark A. Kroeker convened the Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling, a panel of community members and police to study, discuss, and make recommendations on improving the police-community partnership with regard to racial profiling. The panel defined racial profiling as the use of race as the sole basis for justifying traffic stops or other police action and offered recommendations to the Bureau in five areas: recruitment, promotion and retention; communication; training; data collection; and accountability.

Recruitment, promotion, and retention

  • Hire more minority officers. Create awareness among the minority communities regarding the Bureau's hiring needs. Ensure that hiring practices are inclusive, rather than exclusive.
  • Encourage minority individuals to become part of areas within the Bureau where there is current under-representation.
  • Evaluate job classifications and assignments to assess the current level of under-representation and take steps to address it. Look for proportion, equity, throughout the Bureau, not just an increase in the current number of minority individuals working for the Bureau as a whole (i.e. minority individuals working at all levels of the Bureau including sworn and non-sworn positions).
  • Examine standards and barriers to entry and promotion, making sure they do not exclude minorities. Continually monitor the process of recruiting, hiring, and promoting.
  • Recruit and promote people who possess qualities that are not easily taught. Individuals should be selected because they possess the ability to motivate others, in addition to having other skills that are not easily taught. They should also value quality customer service, and demonstrate this through their actions.
  • Learn from the minority employees who already work for the Bureau. Create a way for people to share their ideas and experience with decision-makers, so systems can be designed that will promote diversity. Validate those individuals who share their ideas, concerns and experience, listen and consider their suggestions. Continuously look for ways of improving existing systems, as well as maintaining the ones that are working well.


  • Improve police communication with community members at the time of the stop or arrest. Officers need to explain to community members the reason for the stop or the reason for the arrest, and they need to explain to on-lookers, whenever possible, the reason for a stop or arrest.
  • Improve overall customer service. The Bureau should develop strategies to strengthen overall customer service throughout the organization, and to strengthen its customer service orientation. Ask existing Bureau advisory groups to develop recommendations for new strategies to improve customer service.
  • Create a complaint line for stops. The Bureau should support the creation of a neutral phone number for community members to call when wanting to report discriminatory practices during a police stop or an arrest. This phone line would operate independently from the Bureau. The information gathered through this line should be shared with the Internal Affairs Division for possible follow-up investigation. This would support a sense of "checks and balances" to the complaint system.
  • Use mediation as a way of resolving complaints. Mediation provides a way for everyone involved in a complaint to be heard. It also provides an opportunity for the people directly involved to resolve the situation in a timely fashion.
  • Communicate the result of the complaint process. The Bureau and the Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee should improve their methods to communicate the results of complaints to the public so people are more informed on the types of complaints that are received and the outcome of the investigations of these complaints.


  • Conduct in-service training. The Bureau should ensure that all employees understand that discriminatory practices will not be tolerated. In-service training will include topics such as cultural diversity, customer service, and interpersonal conflict resolution skills. Additional topics for in-service training need to be community driven. It is important to monitor the quality and effectiveness of all training, especially that which relates to diversity. The Bureau should also provide incentives (i.e. acknowledgement) for officers who participate in these trainings.
  • Coordinate opportunities for exchange programs. Full immersion into another culture will build cultural awareness. Officers will become more sensitive to other cultures if they have experienced living in a culture other than their own.
  • Provide mentoring and coaching for all personnel. Instill the value of customer service free from racial profiling into the culture, by one-on-one problem solving and recognition of accomplishments. Plan on coaching people throughout their careers, not just during their probationary period. Ongoing coaching and mentoring allows supervisors to identify potential problems, and correct them in an expedient manner. Mentoring and coaching, as suggested here, are not intended as part of a disciplinary process, but as a way of helping develop people.
  • Create a system for monitoring training. Hold individuals accountable for the training they receive. Encourage sharing of new information, and implementation of learned techniques, principles and ideas. The responsibility of ensuring use of training falls not only on the trainees, but also on the supervisors. Develop a process for correcting behavior that is not consistent with training goals.
  • Encourage community involvement. Promote opportunities for officers to interact with residents outside their "enforcement" role. This informal "training" promotes understanding, breaks down barriers and reduces the "us" versus "them" phenomenon. Community involvement is also consistent with the vision for communication.

    Data collection

  • Implement the data collection recommendations from Oregon's Governor's Public Safety Planning and Policy Council. This council is requesting that Oregon policing agencies collect the information found below. Participating agencies' information will be compiled, and the findings shared with the 2001 Oregon State Legislature.
  • Collect data on traffic stops, subject stops and conversations that include police action in the form of a search, citation or arrest. Collect the following information: perceived race, perceived gender, estimated age, reason for the stop, whether there was a search or frisk and the disposition of the action. The entire Bureau should be part of this process, not just a pilot project consisting of a small number of officers.
  • Participate in the data and policy monitoring activities of the Public Safety Coordinating Council's Working Group on theOver-Representation of Minorities in the Criminal Justice System. This work group purposed the formation of a task force to develop community solutions to the problem of over-representation, and to ensure ongoing monitoring of data and policies across all components of the criminal justice system.
  • Work in cooperation with the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), the Bureau's Data Processing Division and the Bureau's Planning and Support Division regarding data collection.
  • Research technology and funding sources. Look into other ways officers can enter the data without a Mobile Digital Computer (MDC) because some officers do not have easy access to MDCs (i.e. motorcycle officers, Mounted Patrol Unit officers, bicycle patrol officers). One type of hardware that is on the market is an automated citation device, which not only records the necessary data, but also generates and prints the citation for the officer.


  • Clearly define Bureau expectations. This recommendation ties in to the recommendations for communication; training; and recruitment, promotion, and retention. The Bureau should communicate clear expectations and the consequences if those expectations are not met. Use these expectations as guidelines for creating training plans.
  • Hold individuals at all levels of the Bureau accountable. This means that accountability is not just for officers or for the leadership, but for all officers and leaders, sworn and non-sworn. Every member of the Bureau is held to these same standards and expectations.
  • Conduct outreach efforts in the community. The Bureau should build awareness of expectations and efforts around the issue of racial profiling.




Juvenile Department Student Internship Program (Marion County)
Funded by the Commission on Children and Families in 1994, the Marion County Juvenile Department established a bilingual/bicultural internship for college students to improve the provision of services to Hispanic youth, therebying reduce their presence in confinement, and to diversify the department's workforce by employing the student interns upon graduation.

Further Recommendations

  • Increase the availability and improve the quality of diversion programs for minority youth involved in the juvenile justice system.



Multnomah County Juvenile Detention Alternative
Oregon has been nationally recognized for Multnomah County's juvenile detention alternative initiative, a program to reduce minority youth over-representation by eliminating racial bias in the detention system.



Cultural Competency and Gender Specific Resource Guide
The Supreme Court Implementation Committee encouraged the Commission on Children and Families to develop a list of juvenile experts on minority cultures and make the list available to juvenile court staff and practitioners. The Commission, working with the Oregon Youth Authority and the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, produced the first edition in January 2001.

Lawyer Directory.
The Spanish Language Legal Network publishes a directory of Oregon attorneys who speak Spanish as a referral resource for non-English-speaking people. The directory provides addresses, phone numbers, and specialty areas of Spanish-speaking attorneys. Listings also include the attorneys' self-assessed Spanish-speaking ability on a scale of 1 to 10. The directories are provided free to non-profit agencies serving the Hispanic community; other businesses and individuals can purchase it for $10 from the Spanish Language Legal Network.

Statutory Authority to Provide Interpreters to Non-English-Speaking Parents
The 2001 Oregon legislature adopted a proposal of the Oregon Judicial Department's Access to Justice for All Committee to allow court appointment of interpreters for non-English-speaking parents, guardians, and persons granted rights of limited participation in juvenile delinquency cases. Given shifting demographic trends, the group of individuals who might influence a juvenile's life has expanded. An uncle or a sister without custody or the title of legal guardianship might in fact be the most influential person in a child's life. Now, laws governing juvenile proceedings recognize this circumstance by providing the right to an interpreter to those persons who have extended personal involvement with the child, or have been granted rights of limited participation.

Further Recommendations

  • Provide juvenile court instructions and forms in languages other than English.


Further Recommendations

  • Seek program models that identify culture-specific methods of case management.
  • Increase the availability of viable and credible community-based alternatives for minority youth involved in the juvenile justice system.



Minority Youth Transition Program (Oregon Youth Authority, Office of Minority Services)
The Oregon Youth Authority, Office of Minority Services continues to expand and enhance the Minority Youth Transition Program. The Transition Program provides services to minority youth leaving secure custody and returning to Marion, Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties as well as others on a case by case basis. The Transition Program has been recognized as a national model both at the National Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Conference December 2000 in Washington, DC and last spring at the National American Correctional Association/OJJDP " Going Home" Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Office of Minority Services provides consultation and technical assistance nationally regarding transition/re-entry services. The Transition Specialists continue to work with Parole Officers and Supervisors, community providers, Minority Services staff, faith-based organizations, the youth's family and
the youth to develop individualized transition plans. Youth may receive incentives and graduated consequences while on the Transition Program. For more information contact Minority Youth Transition Program Coordinator Christina Puentes at (503) 373-7260.

Parole Transitioning Project (Multnomah County)
Funded by the Commission on Children and Families in 1991, the Multnomah County Juvenile Justice Division sought to improve services to minority youth during the first three months following release from custody. A Parole Transition Coordinator staffed the project and performed the following duties: meeting with youth at training schools and close custody camps; attending Close Custody Review Board hearings and case reviews; working with juvenile parole staff to develop an effective transition plan for each youth; and developing community-based resources for paroled youth.

The Minority Youth Advocacy Program (Lane County)
Funded by the Commission on Children and Families in 1991 and 1994, the Lane County Department of Youth Services sought to reduce recidivism among minority youth offenders by addressing their needs in a more culturally appropriate manner and providing them support in the larger community. Services to minority youth and their families included counseling, mentoring through the Big Brother Program, interpreter/translation services, transportation, court advocacy, conflict mediation, liaison to schools, and information and referrals. These services were designed to help youth overcome behavioral, language, self-esteem, and cultural identify issues

Further Recommendations

  • Provide support for after-care programs designed to facilitate reintegration of minority youth from state and county facilities back to their home communities.


Data Collection

The Data Collection Systems Plan
The Commission on Children and Families studied methods that counties could use to improve data collection at all decision points in the juvenile system and thereby enhance the Commission's ongoing monitoring efforts.

The Commission's Native American Pass
Through Initiative (NAPTI), the Commission on Children and Families contracted a study on how to use OJJDP funds for Native American tribes to study juvenile justice issues within their communities. The NAPTI Committee adopted the following recommendations:

  • Address the lack of data on Native American youth
  • Provide technical assistance to Native American professionals
  • Provide training on tribal sovereignty and cultural diversity issues
  • Examine tribal/state linkages
  • Provide a Native American resource library
  • Address the lack of funding sources for tribes

Decision Support System (Multnomah County)
Multnomah County has implemented a data warehouse to support a user system called the Decision Support System for Justice (DSS). Updated daily, DSS already includes data from the Multnomah Court, Sheriff, Portland Police, District Attorney, and Corrections. The ability of Multnomah County to collect and monitor the data concerning over-representation will be greatly enhanced by the completion and implementation of this system.

Further Recommendations



Restructuring of Oregon's Juvenile Justice System
Governor Barbara Roberts appointed the Task Force on Juvenile Crime in 1993 to evaluate the growing needs of youth offenders and recommend ways to expand the capacity of Oregon's juvenile institutions. Following a year-long planning effort by the task force, the Oregon legislature implemented a complete overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system in 1995. SB 1 divested the Children's Services Division of the responsibility of dealing with violent juvenile criminals and created a new Department of Youth Authority. The act also authorized the construction of four maximum security juvenile facilities, required all juvenile offenders to be photographed and fingerprinted, implemented a tiered sanction system, made the expungement of juvenile records more difficult, and developed a "second-look" review policy to provide youth an opportunity for parole after serving half of their sentence. The Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) became an independent department of the State of Oregon in 1996 and established the Office of Minority Services (OMS) to provide leadership, advocacy, and guiding principles for the agency to become a culturally competent organization and address the complex issues of a culturally and ethnically diverse population. The OMS supports OYA in embracing the values and strengths of all cultures and the implementation of culturally relevant/gender specific treatment services that empower youth to make positive changes.

Minority Initiative Program: Cultural Competency Criteria (Marion County)
Funded by the Commission on Children and Families in 1991, the Marion County Commission on Children and Families (MCC) implemented a systems change by developing the Cultural Competency Criteria. Youth service agencies funded by the MCC used the criteria as a checklist to help them determine their "cultural competency" and thereby improve their ability to provide culturally appropriate services to all clients. Components of the checklist included: the surrounding community, management controls, bilingual capabilities, available resources, facilities, the type of service provided and feedback received. MCC introduced the criteria to agencies through grant processes and formal contract and other meetings.

Cultural Competency Training Program.
In the fall of 1994, the Commission sent two juvenile justice practitioners to a training session that equipped them to train others in cultural competency. The trained practitioners then made their services available to counties throughout the state. The Commission decided to develop a local resource of trainers who focused on the juvenile system, rather than contract with other diversity trainers, because under this scheme the Commission could ensure that a uniform and high quality program focusing on juvenile justice was disseminated statewide. The Commission also provided each county with $3,000 for cultural competency training and assistance.

Further Recommendations



Oregon Judicial Department Status Report 2006-2007 - National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts (pdf)

Oregon Youth Authority Website

Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, Evaluation of Multnomah County's Juvenile Justice Division Services to Minority Youth (1989)