Seeking a Better Way: DA Budget Reform Efforts

The NAACP Portland Branch believes that district attorney reform is central to achieving any reforms in the criminal justice system. On May 24, 2018, the executive committee voted to sign onto the ACLU memo titled Setting a Higher Bar for the Multnomah County District Attorney Budget. The ACLU performed an in-depth analysis of the current metrics the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office uses to measure its success. Looking for a better model that might support restorative justice and a move away from mass incarceration, the ACLU is encouraging county commissioners and the DA’s office to adopt a budget focused on outcomes, rather than processing numbers. Importantly, the ACLU found that:

“not a single output, outcome, or performance measure within the DA budget that explicitly focuses on reducing racial disparity or increasing equity and inclusion. Instead, the 2019 fiscal year budget largely measures the total number of criminal cases reviewed, issued, and resolved.”

Money is power, and with the largest law-enforcement budget in the county, Multnomah County DA wields tremendous power. If what you measure is what you get, it’s clear that we need to measure the effectiveness of the DA office on something other than the number of criminal cases it handles each year.

We will continue to stay connected to this process. Members can call or email commissioners and the DA office to encourage a shift in 2019 to a budget focused on outcomes, staff training, support for crime victims, better treatment for youth, and more.