Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill has released a new policy for Measure 11 offenders who are juveniles.

Measure 11 is the 1994 Oregon law that established mandatory minimum sentencing for certain serious crimes. The law also applies to juvenile offenders, and it usually meant those offenders were tried as adults.  

The new policy could allow certain young offenders to resolve their case in juvenile court instead. Currently, most Measure 11 cases are resolved with a pretrial resolution, or a plea deal, in adult court. That means the conviction goes on the offender’s permanent record.  

“We have the desire for young individuals to be held accountable while recognizing that in certain circumstances, we don’t necessarily need to be an anchor around their neck,” said Underhill.

The new policy will be applied on a case-by-case basis for juvenile offenders seeking a plea deal.

Underhill pointed out that most juveniles convicted of Measure 11 crimes are young men of color, and said the juvenile justice system might offer opportunities to better address their needs.

“As we know, 17-year-olds are different than 27-year-olds,” said Underhill. “Over the last handful of years, we’ve learned more and more about young people’s maturity levels.”

Bobbin Singh with the Oregon Justice Resource Center said the policy is a good first step.

“Fundamentally, we believe that kids should be treated as kids, and not the default that when charged with certain crimes kids are treated as adults,” Singh said.