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Portland Police To Send Drug Addicts To Treatment Instead Of Jail


A graphic showing how members of the Portland area justice system plan to deal with drug addicts in the future.

A graphic showing how members of the Portland area justice system plan to deal with drug addicts in the future.

Emily Fuller/OPB

Portland and Multnomah County are changing the way they deal with drug addicts. Starting Tuesday, people who are picked up on low-level possession charges will be funneled to treatment — rather than jail.

Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said for years law enforcement has worked hard to improve public safety. But going forward they’re adopting what he hopes will be a better approach.

Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman asked his officers what they think of the policy change.

“They said, ‘Oh, yeah. We have clients that this would be great for.’ Because this helps them, too. We don’t want to arrest people and send them to the sheriff’s jail day in and day out,” he said. 

“If we can have one contact, get them to social services, get them to break that cycle, it benefits not only them but us as well.”

The Metropolitan Public Defenders Office likes the idea and said it should reduce racial disparities in the justice system.

Seattle started the approach. Participants there are 58 percent less likely to be arrested again, compared with a control group.

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