The power of the prosecutor

Data shows prosecutors don’t introduce new racial disparities to the criminal justice system in Multnomah County, but they also don’t reduce them either – not yet. New information shows prosecutors may be on a path to doing so. And that they perhaps have rich opportunity to solve problems when other parts of the system fall short.

“Count in Mexican”

A man illegally in the United States is beaten by state troopers after a camera in an officer’s car goes blank for 18 minutes. In audio obtained by reporters, you can hear the muffled thumping, groans and cries for help. At the hospital, he said, an officer taunted: “Welcome to fucking America.”

Outlawing bias

In 1994, a sprawling task force led by the Oregon Supreme Court developed 72 recommendations for reducing disparities in the criminal justice system. Most bills targeting reform in the Oregon Legislature failed. New bills target police profiling and drug decriminalization in 2017 – does Oregon have the political will to pass them?

The high costs of disparities for people of color in Multnomah County

An analysis of more than a decade of court records in Oregon found that African-Americans paid $21.5 million more than whites for committing the same crimes. The finding proves there’s more than just police profiling at work in a system that treats African-Americans more harshly than whites, but police practices remain a factor in overcharging.

Black riders face stiffest transit penalty at rates more than six times that of whites

Black riders face stiffest transit penalty: A study of fare enforcement on TriMet found no disparities last year. But that study didn’t take into account data that show police assigned exclusively to TriMet charge black transit riders with interfering with public transit – a misdemeanor on par with drunk driving – at rates at least 6.4 times those of white riders.

Is it a business to report on racial disparities?

It cost $2,400 to buy the Unequal Justice series. That’s not pay for the reporters or photographers. That’s not the cost of editing and distributing the work, either. That’s just the cost to buy the story from the Oregon Judicial Department, which controls the bulk data that underpins the Oregon eCourt Case Information – the database a reporter analyzed to uncover the disparities reported in the series. It’s also something for which the Oregon Judicial Department charges money.

LISTEN: Roberto Santana-Park

The Driver: Roberto Santana-Park, with his wife Lorraine and their daughter Reina. When Roberto drove without his license, this “mere conversation” with police ended in a trip to the hospital and charges of drunk driving and assaulting an officer.

The ripple effect

Jaime Miranda saw business cut in half at M&M Marketplace, his Latino-themed bazaar in Hillsboro, after a 2008 state law required applicants to prove they are in the country legally to get a license. One Woodburn grocery owner, Ezequiel Escobedo, who runs a Woodburn grocery, launched a delivery service for Latino clients who don’t have a license in response to the law.

‘Driving while brown’

Latino residents in Oregon are charged with failing to carry a license at rates more than eight times the rate of whites, the probability of which is “so much smaller than being struck by lightning,” said criminologist Mark G. Harmon. Their real crime? Some say it’s “driving while brown.”

Chief Complaints

The former Latina liaison for the Springfield police says new leadership in the department has pushed back against her efforts to address concerns about profiling of Latina residents.

LISTEN: Jim Ludwick

The Lobbyist: Jim Ludwick, founder of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, has dedicated his retirement to making Oregon a less welcoming place for undocumented immigrants. https://soundcloud.com/investigatewest/ludwick-unequal-justice

Driver’s license law tested in court

Gov. Kate Brown has continually shown support for granting driving privileges regardless of immigration status. But as the state’s top elected leader, she was forced to defend a law discriminating against drivers based on immigration status.