Racial Impact Statements Move Forward

SB 463 passed the Senate on Tuesday, earlier this week, bringing Oregon one step closer to creating Racial Impact Statements for criminal justice and child welfare related bills. The bill was co-sponsored by Senator Chip Shields and Senator Jackie Winters and marks a significant step forward in helping Oregon address racial disparities within our criminal justice system and other institutions.

Many people know that people of color are overrepresented in our criminal justice system. However, most do not realize the scale of disparity. For example, African Americans are more than six times as likely as white people to end up in Oregon’s prison system. This bill attempts to give Oregon’s legislators more information to analyze and address racial disparity.

Senate Bill 463A requires the Criminal Justice Commission to issue racial impact statements when requested by a legislator. Racial impact statements are a relatively new tool developed to estimate the disparate racial impacts of proposed criminal sentencing and child welfare bills, in the same way that fiscal or environmental impact statements describe the budgetary and ecological effects of policies. Racial impact statements were first enacted by the State of Iowa in 2008, after a national report by the Sentencing Project found that Iowa had the highest rate of racial disparities among prison inmates.
Senate Bill 463 passed the Senate on a 27 to 2 vote and is now being sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Partnership for Safety and Justice will continue to support this bill as it moves its way through the House and may need to rely on PSJ members to show there is strong grassroots support. We would like to commend Senator Shields and Winters on their leadership. We also know that Representatives Joe Gallegos and Lew Frederick will be strong champions in the House. We thank them all, and look forward to seeing Racial Impact Statements become a reality in Oregon.