The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners

Dear friends & neighbors,

Earlier this week I went to jail… It was required. County commissioners are required to inspect jail facilities once a year, but the tour is always enlightening because there is so much we’re doing around our criminal justice system.
Jail itself is bleak. While it’s dual purpose is to hold defendants awaiting trial and those serving short term sentences, all too often our jails are housing those struggling with mental health issues, addiction issues, and/or homelessness, individuals who are often arrested for nonviolent offenses. A 2016 report found that at least 40 percent of inmates have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Jail, when used to house these individuals, can become a revolving door that exacts a enormous toll, not only on those incarcerated, but also their families and the community at large, particularly communities of color. What’s more, jail can be expensive and ineffective at detouring many types of misdemeanor offenses.

Throughout the country, communities are changing the way they address crime, and Multnomah County is at the forefront of those efforts. In partnership with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Portland Police Bureau, judges, and the District Attorney, we are focusing incarceration on those who are a threat to society or face serious charges, such as Measure 11 offenses or domestic violence charges. For other crimes, we want to reduce the use of jail as an costly, ineffective deterrent and offer people services and treatments focused on preventing the root cause of their criminal activity. We believe these targeted approaches will save taxpayers money and reduce recidivism and the revolving door of incarceration.

Examples of our efforts include the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion(LEAD®) program, which redirects people engaged in low-level drug activity from jail to services, and our Treatment First Program, which allows people facing possession or drug charges the opportunity for treatment and services. Those who successfully complete the program avoid jail time and can have their charges dismissed or reduced.

On the mental health side, the Sheriff has created a Mental Health Diversion Program that releases inmates on their own recognizance to mental health support and services. The courts have also developed a special court docket with rapid psychological evaluations that can help defendants stabilize their mental health.

Through an award we received from the MacArthur Foundation, we’ve also opened up the Diane Wade House, an Afrocentric transitional housing program for women involved in the justice system.

Our jails are an expensive form of housing, poorly equipped to address mental health and substance abuse disorders, and have too often been used to lock up people of color. The shift we are making will take time, resources, and require a shift in our thinking about “punishing” offenders. But I believe it’s long past due to reevaluate the way we deal with certain criminal behaviors, and to focus on addressing the problem, rather than punishing offenders.



PS: Find more information on our various strategies and programs..


Legislative Advocacy

JVP testifying

I have been spending some time down in Salem talking to legislators about the issues that matter the most to me and my constituents. Last week, I testified in support of HB 2007, which will transition our vehicle fleet and construction equipment away from dirty diesel engines and toward clean diesel technology. I’ve also been speaking with legislators about the importance of funding our state’s early learning system, which will set up our children for success by equipping them with the tools they need to successfully start kindergarten. As you likely know, the County has also been working on our Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project, which will create a resilient crossing over the Willamette in case of an earthquake. Part of that work has included speaking with legislators about the importance and urgency of this project and potential  funding opportunities. 

Finally, I will be testifying on several other important bills over the next few weeks. First, I will be speaking to the Senate Rules Committee on March 27th in support of the Our Future Our Vote Act, which would lower Oregon's voting age to 16. In April, I will be voicing my strong support for the Equal Access to Roads Act, which would allow all Oregonians equal access to our roads and make driving safer for everyone in our state.

Women's History Month

BCC Women's History Month

The Board of County Commissioners proclaimed March 2019 as Women’s History Month. I was excited to cosponsor this proclamation alongside my colleague, Commissioner Susheela Jayapal. We honored the significant contributions of women that have enriched our community. The panel included representatives from Family ForwardNARAL pro-choice OregonWomen’s First Transition, and Sisters in the Brotherhood from the NW Carpenters Union. We reflected on our champions of the past and highlighted the great work of organizations in our community that are that are committed to improving the quality of life for women through advocacy, creating safe living environments, community engagement, outreach and inclusion.

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

JVP Steptember

Save the Date: Coffee with the Commissioner

Save the date for our next Coffee with the Commissioner event on Friday, April 19th from 10 am - 12 pm. We will be holding this event at CherryWood Village (1417 SE 107th Ave). Coffee, tea, and pastries will be provided.

Please contact my office if you have any questions.

Transportation as Liberation

Join me for a conversation about the future of transportation. Is our transportation just a necessity, allowing us to get from one place to another? Or is it a right, enabling us to explore the world around us? And how do we best make use of the 30 percent of real estate in the city designated as right of way that is largely devoted to transportation? 

The event, hosted by Business for a Better Portland part of Design Week, will take place on Tuesday, April 9th from 5:30-7:30pm. You can find out more information and obtain tickets here.

(Rescheduled) Senior Resource Fair! 

Save the date for the (rescheduled) Multnomah County Senior Resource Fair on Saturday, April 27 from 10am-2pm at the East Portland Community Center.   

This event will bring together resources and information useful to those who are older or care for older adults. This event was originally scheduled in February, but postponed due to snow.Please contact my office at if you have questions. I hope to see you there!

Be a Multnomah Youth Commissioner!

The Multnomah County Youth Commission is now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 commission. Youth Commissioners serve a one-year term and commit up to 15 hours per month to help support the County & City of Portland on issues that impact the lives of their peers.Those between the ages of 13-21 (as of August 1, 2019) are asked to apply by April 22. You can find more information and apply here.

Subscribe to Commissioner Vega Pederson's newsletter.