After an extensive investigation spanning 18 months, Crime Victims United has released a report on juvenile justice in Multnomah County. The report is entitled “We’re Not Law Enforcement” – Multnomah Juvenile Services, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. It is available here:
In the early 1990’s, the very well-funded Casey Foundation began offering financial incentives to juvenile justice agencies to adopt the Foundation’s philosophy regarding juvenile crime and offenders. This philosophy advocated a child-welfare approach to juvenile crime which de-emphasized enforcement of court mandates and viewed the use of detention as being overwhelmingly harmful and mostly unnecessary. At the same time, Oregon was adopting its current juvenile justice mission statement which stated that the purpose was to protect the public and reduce crime.
Multnomah County adopted the Casey philosophy and, with the help of the Casey Foundation, has asserted that their approach to juvenile justice is producing results that prove the success of their model.
Our investigation found good reason to believe otherwise. Drawing from statistics provided by the State of Oregon, this report shows that Multnomah County consistently underperforms the rest of the state in measures of both accountability and the reduction of crime.
We conducted surveys of Multnomah County detention workers and 255 Multnomah County law enforcement officers. The results document a startling lack of confidence in the direction of the juvenile department.
As the most populous county in Oregon, the policies and practices of Multnomah Juvenile Services have an impact throughout the state. This impact arises not only through the movement of poorly rehabilitated youth within the state, but also through the influence of Juvenile Services and the Casey Foundation who proselytize their model.
This report is not about choosing detention or enforcement over treatment, but about looking at juvenile crime in a more realistic manner. Effective treatment of offenders requires the motivation and credibility provided by enforcement.
Whether you are a policymaker, you work in the justice system or you are a concerned citizen, whether you live in Multnomah County or elsewhere in the State of Oregon, we ask you to give this report your close attention.
Steve Doell, President
Crime Victims United