Over the past two decades, Multnomah County has continually reduced reliance on jail. This work was accelerated with support from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, which launched important investments in jail diversion, support for communities with disproportionate impacted by the justice system, and improvements to the public safety system. Since joining the Challenge in 2015, the County has safely reduced jail use by 10% — despite the county’s growing population and insufficient housing and behavioral health resources.
Notable initiatives and strategies launched since 2015 include:
- Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD®), a pre-booking diversion program that allows police officers to redirect low-level justice-involved individuals arrested for drug activity to intensive case management tailored to the individual’s needs instead of jail and prosecution.
- The Diane Wade House, a culturally specific transitional housing program for adult women involved in the criminal justice system in Multnomah County — with a focus on Black and African American women.
- Improving system efficiency, such as court processing timelines for probation violations, competency evaluations, and decreasing use of jail for individuals on probation.
To build on past efforts, Multnomah County was awarded an additional $2 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2020, which includes $125,000 in funding for community engagement. This grant will be used to further implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local pretrial jail population, including unfair and ineffective practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues.
To continue safely reducing the jail population and address racial and ethnic disparities, the County plans to continue work on eight of its original 13 strategies and implement two new strategies focused on the pretrial system. Specific focus areas will include pretrial release policies, identifying the pretrial risk assessment best suited to local needs, and streamlining decision-making.