|Remarks by Governor Kulongoski
|November 29, 2007
Minority Over-Representation in Juvenile Justice System
Thank you Senator Gordly, for that introduction and welcome.
I want to make sure you are all aware of today’s milestone: this will be Avel’s final summit as a state senator. Please join me in thanking her for her tireless efforts on behalf of justice and equality in Oregon, and especially in the juvenile justice system.
Senator Gordly has been a driving force in these efforts from the very first summit. She has never checked her passion or her commitment at the door. I will so much miss her work in Salem and wish her the best of luck in this next stage of her life and career.
I would also like to welcome our special guest, Rep. Mitch Needleman from the State of Florida. We appreciate your traveling across the county to see the Oregon way of doing things, and hope that we have given you something of value to take back to Florida with you.
I am pleased to return to this ninth Governor’s Summit on Minority Over-Representation in the Juvenile Justice System.
Nine years – that means we have been focusing on this issue for nearly a decade and over that time, one important reality has been called into focus:
That is, in order to make the greatest impact and help minority youths avoid the justice system we must – as a society and as a state – give these kids a fighting chance from the moment they are born.
That’s what I am trying to do – provide early intervention and stay with our children every step of the way. And we’ve had some great successes.
For example, Oregon has had one of the biggest expansions of Head Start in the Country and out of this last state budget we added funds to enroll and additional 3,200 children.
At the opposite end of the education timeline – higher education – we recently announced the greatest expansion of state financial aid for college in recent memory. The Oregon Opportunity Grant is designed to fill the gap between federal grants and a student’s ability to pay. My goal is to get to a day where no one who wants it will be denied a higher education.
These two programs – Head Start and the Opportunity Grant – will go a long way to insure that Oregon’s minority youth will be given a path to success.
But there is so much more to do.
We MUST get health care for every child in Oregon. It is a tragedy that more than 117,000 kids do not have the coverage they need to keep them healthy and strong.
And I’m here to tell you that I remain firmly committed to that goal. One way or another, we’re going to get it done.
Early intervention – whether it’s health care, education, or simply making sure all of our children have a roof over their head and enough food in their bellies is the best way to keep them safe and out of the system.
I also want to report to you some other gains we have made:
I am pleased to say that together we have made significant restorations and improvements in the services that reduce minority over-representation.
We restored funding to county juvenile departments, created a new funding stream to combat gangs across this state, expanded treatment capacity across the state, and increased state-level services for the most serious and high-risk youth offenders.
And we have continued the Law Enforcement Contacts Committee, which looks at racial disparities in police contacts – one of the key decision points we study in over-representation.
And next month I will receive a report on how to expand the Wraparound service model in Oregon – a family-driven system of care that honors the culture of the child and their families.
Wraparound will help obtain services for children who need help from multiple systems. If we don’t provide those services in a less restrictive setting, these young people are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system because our other services and supports have failed them.
Let me also make a point about Senate Bill 267, which I know has some people concerned that funding would be removed from services to minority youth because research hasn’t evaluated the effectiveness on some services on minority groups.
Let me be clear, the law is intended to focus our funding on services that work and get the greatest return on our investment – not to leave people behind.
I am very much looking forward to giving these deserving young people their awards, but I want to say one more thing before I finish.
It’s about an initiative that will be on the ballot in November of 2008 relating to sentencing of drug dealers, identity thieves, and other crimes.
Let me be clear: this ballot measure will not keep communities safe or reduce crime. What it will do is force the state to spend between $256 and $400 million per bi-ennium to house additional prisoners who will be released and go right back out and offend again.
The problem is that this ballot measure includes absolutely no funding for drug or alcohol treatment so it ignores the biggest problem and the cause behind these crimes: addiction.
Without treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, this measure slaps a gold-plated revolving door on the front of our already bursting prison system. We’ll spend more money for more prisons and will get worse results. What a waste.
This measure is Initiative Petition 40 – after the signatures are verified it will be given a ballot number. No matter what name it goes by, it’s a bad idea and I hope you will join me in voting NO when it comes before us in November.