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New website connects citizens to judicial process

DAs hope to help citizens understand criminal justice system
Jayati Ramakrishnan

East Oregonian

Published on September 5, 2018 5:59PM

If you’ve ever been confused by the criminal justice process, the state’s 36 prosecutors have come up with a way to help make the system easier to understand.

The Oregon District Attorneys Association has launched a new website (www.oregonda.org), which aims to teach citizens about the state’s justice system, and help them engage with it.

Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus is one of the association’s eight board members.

He said it’s important for district attorneys to be engaged with their own communities about issues specific to those areas.

“This state is quite diverse,” he said. “We live in rural Oregon, a rural community that’s quite different than [that of] my counterpart Rod Underhill, who’s the Multnomah County District Attorney.”

Primus said the differences span not only geography, but the types of issues they have and the media outlets they work with. A Pendleton native, Primus said he regularly speaks at local service clubs and schools, and appears monthly on a local radio show. He said it may be more difficult for a DA in more populous county to interact with the public.

But he said it’s also important to try and educate the state as a whole — hence the idea for a website.

The board, made up of DAs from both rural and urban counties, took input from the other prosecutors around the state to create the website, Primus said.

The site explains the primary role of prosecutors — working with law enforcement agencies to investigate and hold accountable those who violate state law — and lists resources for victims or those wanting to help victims.

The website also breaks down different aspects of the criminal justice system. In the “Your Criminal Justice System” section, readers can find out about a variety of things, including the process for sentencing, how DAs are required to handle officer involved shootings, and a dictionary of legal terms.

The “Myths Vs. Facts” section discusses common misconceptions within the Oregon justice system. According to the site, the idea that Oregon has a problem with “mass incarceration” is a myth, as is the complaint that prosecutors are to blame.

“Actually, Oregon has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation,” states the website. “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 25 percent of the people convicted of felonies go to prison, and that is typically for crimes such as murder, rape and robbery.”

The site adds that prosecutors alone do not have the power to incarcerate a single person.

Primus added that he hopes people will understand that prosecutors are limited in their actions by state law, too.

“People will think ‘it’s a felony case, so they’ll be headed to prison,’” Primus said. “The fact is we’re working with a sentencing block that’s been created by the legislature.”

Primus has been Umatilla County’s District Attorney since 2011 — first appointed to the position, and then elected in an uncontested election in 2016.


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