By david rogers & Daniel Lewkow
The role of the district attorney is being redefined all around the country. In Oregon, confidence in district attorneys is in freefall, plummeting 15 percentage points in just one year, according to an independent DHM research poll. In Texas, half of all sitting district attorneys in contested primaries just lost their seats. All across the country, people are crying out for change. What is going on?
Public opinion research provides some answers. A growing majority of voters in Oregon and across the US are increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo. They understand that so-called “tough on crime” strategies have failed. They want our criminal justice system to be more effective, fair, transparent and accountable. In short, district attorneys increasingly need to earn the support and confidence of voters; they cannot take it for granted.
However, many district attorneys are disconnected from public opinion and modern policy approaches. A growing majority of voters from across the political spectrum are eager for reform. They want updated approaches to criminal justice. And DAs have an opportunity to respond. Instead of perpetuating policies from the 1990s that are increasingly at odds with Oregon values, Oregon DAs can step up to lead, making our system more in line with best practices. Indeed, some DAs across the country are beginning to lead reform efforts, and are being rewarded by media and voters. DAs can —and should—champion reforms here in Oregon too.
The ACLU of Oregon wanted to provide district attorney candidates with a briefing book that provided fact-based, up-to-date information about:
• The work the ACLU of Oregon is doing in regard to criminal justice and DAs
• How Oregonians feel about our criminal justice system.
• How news coverage of district attorneys is changing.
• Our analysis of some key issues and a range of options DAs have to improve our criminal justice system.
We then provided the Briefing Book to every candidate running for a district attorney office in the spring of 2018 in Oregon. We believe that, regardless of what policies the candidates support or whether they have a contested race, that every person running for this powerful office should have access to vetted and research-driven information on how DAs can help make the state’s justice system more fair, accountable, and effective.
The ACLU of Oregon does not support or oppose candidates. We are strictly a non-partisan organization. Our goal is not to help any specific candidate win his or her election, but instead to serve as a resource to any district attorney who is interested in improving our criminal justice system.
Here is a link to the District Attorney Candidate Briefing Book. Please feel free to share it with your network, your community, and your local elected officials.