We are creating a movement among incarcerated and non-incarcerated youth in Oregon to shift attitudes about youth incarceration, propose alternatives to Measure 11 sentencing, and ensure that voters who are eligible and incarcerated have access to the ballot.
Next Up centers creating real systemic change, dismantling the structural barriers that our generation is facing, while also shifting power and increasing representation of directly impacted communities. Under this mission, we've been visiting MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility to collaborate with youth about Measure 11 reform, and have on-boarded Bobby Tsow as our Youth Justice Coordinator. Bobby has just completed his mandatory minimum sentence of 6 years in Oregon in March of 2019. This new staff person, along with a Masters of Social Work intern, and a group of 20 incarcerated young men at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility will be launching a state-wide campaign, Unlocking Justice. The project has three main facets: 1) build a statewide movement that changes the perception about young people impacted by mass incarceration and shift public opinion on criminal/juvenile justice; 2) propose alternative sentencing to Measure 11; 3) ensure that eligible and incarcerated people have access to the ballot. This project is also inspired by the work at Chicago Votes (go check them out).
We know that we must address the structural barriers to the disparities in Oregon, and Measure 11 mandatory minimums are a significant barrier to racial and gender justice. The work is urgent because the racial impact of Measure 11 is harming our communities in ways that will have consequences for generations. 2012 data shows that Black youth were nearly three times more likely to receive a Measure 11 charge than white youth, and the proportion of Measure 11 indictments were nearly five times greater for Black youth than their relative proportion of our population. Latino and Native American youth were also significantly overrepresented compared to white youth.
The collateral consequences of this policy contribute to unnecessary costs to taxpayers and intergenerational disenfranchisement. We’ve learned so much about young people and the criminal legal system since this law was passed in 1994. Developments in brain science, legal developments, qualitative information about the impacts of mandatory minimums, and data analysis show that Measure 11 does not make sense for Oregon youth. Now is the time to address the problem because we armed with data, recent analysis, and an electorate that demands justice.
Finally, there is a pervasive myth that formerly incarcerated people cannot vote. The fact that communities of color are overly represented in the criminal justice systems, also means they are being further disenfranchised and marginalized in the political system because of this misunderstanding and lack of civic education. By bringing voter education and voter registration to jails we are not only registering voters, but we are disrupting the very system that continues to harm communities of color even after people have served their sentences. In addition, we will be pushing to require that jails provide voter registration and education as people begin the re-entry process.