PORTLAND, Oregon – Today, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced the Multnomah County Commission approved funding for a new pilot program comprised of two attorneys, a victim advocate, and a legal assistant in the 2023 fiscal year.
The proposal, called the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office Access Attorney Program (MAAP), is a values-driven program centering equity, safety, and accountability through local partnerships and on-the-ground community engagement. It seeks to address two key issues: public safety and community trust.
“Revamping how we respond to safety by moving away from a punishment paradigm to care-based supports for individual and community health is my vision of community safety. This proposal can be one tool to help support that shift. And as a local policy maker, I will work in collaboration with community partners to ensure that these types of advancements don’t repeat and maintain historic and current harms from the legal system,” Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal stated.
Instead of operating out of police precincts like other neighborhood prosecution programs, MAAP attorneys will co-locate with trusted community-based organizations. The MAAP pilot will target two key regions in Multnomah County. The ability to co-locate will hinge upon agreements between participating organizations and the DAs office to ensure adequate equity and cultural competency training for attorneys prior to setting foot in a community space along with shared values, goals, and performance metrics when they do.
“MAAP will take attorneys out of the courthouse and put them into the community to help address local safety issues driven by local priorities, incorporating non-carceral solutions such as diversion programs, treatment, and restorative justice where possible, while pursuing accountability for high volume systems users. Putting our prosecutors out in the field also means reducing barriers to the system which often discourages disenfranchised communities from reporting crime in the first place.” DA Mike Schmidt stated.
“This approach is a nationally recognized model. Community prosecutors get to know neighborhood residents. They attend community meetings, give presentations at schools and civic group meetings, encourage involvement and—most importantly—listen to what the community needs and then work collaboratively to find solutions.” Congressman Earl Blumenauer, representing Oregon’s 3rd congressional district stated.
MAAP attorneys would be tasked with attending and hosting community events, canvassing neighbors and businesses, and managing caseloads specific to the discrete area they serve. These attorneys would also work to lower barriers to success for justice-involved individuals by delivering access to expungement, fine, and fee reduction to the communities most impacted. MAAP is an expansion of the existing Strategic Prosecution and Services Unit within the DAs office, which focuses on “high volume systems users” for whom traditional criminal interventions repeatedly fail and who often benefit from a continuum of services and treatment to change their behavior and become contributing members of society.
“Many communities feel a disconnect with the conventional public safety system. And we need to completely reimagine how to keep our communities safe. Legal system partners inside communities that don’t rely on hyper-criminalization and instead lead with community engagement and supports to resolve legal system impacts can help fuel that connection. We welcome these types of efforts and will ensure that they make our communities truly safe and healthy,” Unite Oregon’s Executive Director Khanh Le stated.