Discrimination by name

Oregon, in 1859, was the only state admitted to the union of 33 with a constitutional ban on black immigrants. More than 100 years later, the state’s racist history continues to impact the relationship between the black community and the criminal justice system.

LISTEN: Darrell Millner

The Historian: Darrell Millner, a professor of Black Studies at Portland State University, looks at the past and sees our present, from lash laws enforced by police, to the disparities we describe today. A podcast of the interview with Millner.

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?

Justice disparate by race in Oregon

A project in Oregon parsed more than 5.5 million court records to find that equal justice remains an elusive goal for the state’s more than 650,000 black and Latino residents. Upon hearing the findings, the state senate’s president, Peter Courtney, called them “alarming” while Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who is leading legislative reforms on police profiling, called it “embarrassing” that reporters were first to analyze the state’s data.

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.

Moonlighting ex-reporter’s work aids investigation

The moonlighting ex-reporter that aided a project on racial disparities in Oregon courts was employed weekdays at a job working for the government. Reporter Shasta Kearns Moore talks with Poynter’s Kelly McBride about the ethics of double-duty, and about whether reporter Kate Willson can expect to keep her day job.

About this project

The Unequal Justice project is collaboration between InvestigateWest, the Pamplin Media Group, and independent journalist Kate Willson with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting reviewed and refined the methodology and analysis, and researcher Mark G. Harmon from the Portland State University Criminology & Criminal Justice Department provided statistical review and analysis.


An Oregon reporting project analyzed 5.8 million criminal and violation cases comprising 8.4 million charges filed in the state’s 36 counties. It focused on 5.5 million charges filed between January 2005 and June 2016.

A history of conflict

On July 27, 1945 members of the City Club of Portland gathered in the Crystal Room of the Benson Hotel for a luncheon program to discuss “The Negro in Portland” and, specifically, to hear a report by its committee on Race Relations.