Partnership of Safety and Justice (PSJ) is a statewide nonprofit organization working to reform public safety and criminal justice policy in Oregon on behalf of all people affected by crime and incarceration. We believe that public safety policy should include an appropriate level of accountability for those who commit crimes, resources to ensure that crime survivors get the services they need, and a commitment to proven strategies that prevent crime and provide opportunities for victims and people who commit crimes to rebuild their lives. PSJ is happy to be a part of the Fair Shot Coalition because we know that public safety depends on individuals being able to support themselves and their families and to make meaningful contributions to their communities.
Earlier this year, PSJ joined with the Fair Shot Coalition in successfully urging state lawmakers to “Ban the Box” on employment applications, which gives Oregonians with criminal records a better chance of finding work and getting back on their feet. Eliminating unnecessary barriers to employment is one of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure that people who committed crimes in the past will remain on the right side of the law. The income, health benefits, and social stability associated with employment are, in many cases, essential elements in preventing future criminal activity. Employment also makes it more likely that people will pay restitution when there are victims. Finally, given the disproportionate impact of our criminal justice system on people of color, ending the practice of denying consideration to applicants due solely to the disclosure of a past conviction is a matter of racial equity.
We were also excited to partner with Fair Shot to help bring an end to police profiling in Oregon. We know that profiling by law enforcement is a problem that exists across our state, particularly within communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. This practice degrades rather than enhances public safety by engendering mistrust among community members. We have seen, time and time again, how racial profiling can lead to people of color—most often black boys and young men—becoming victims of police violence. Profiling also contributes to minority communities being disproportionately represented throughout our criminal and juvenile justice systems. PSJ was pleased to see Oregon lawmakers begin tackling this issue with the passage of House Bill 2002 in 2015.
While we and our social justice allies accomplished much this session, we have more work to do. With support from everyone from the president to local legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle, there is reason for optimism. At the same time, we should not underestimate what it will take to build an effective system that we believe in, rather than simply tearing down one that have now.