Racial Justice Victory in Oregon

Racial Justice Victory in Oregon

SB 463 passed the House today and will be sent to the Governor to sign. The bill’s Chief Sponsors were Senator Chip Shields and Representative Joe Gallegos. The bill creates Racial Impact Statements for criminal justice and child welfare related bills. This is a meaningful 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 463B requires the Criminal Justice Commission to issue racial impact statements when requested by a legislator from both major political parties. 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. 
 
Partnership for Safety and Justice has worked with Senator Shields and other allies for years to move this policy concept forward. The bill passed the House with only one dissenting vote coming from Rep. Whitsett. We encourage our members to thank their state representatives who voted for the bill.