From the Director: Summer 2021

A Letter From Paul Solomon

Summer 2021

Dear Friends,

For years Sponsors has been an important voice in the creation and reform of public safety policy. During this past legislative session, we testified on numerous bills related to criminal justice reform, served on committees and workgroups, and championed new legislation. Former participants and board members testified at legislative hearings and wrote letters to legislators. But advocacy is not new to Sponsors. It is embedded in the DNA of the organization. Reentry has only recently been accepted as a vital and necessary component of the criminal justice system. Ron Chase, Sponsors’ long-time executive director (1988 – 2011), was instrumental in advocating for reentry services. Ron recognized that the system was not going to change itself. He spent countless hours at city, county and state meetings advocating for reentry until people started to listen to what he had to say. His efforts resulted in our first government contracts and the invitation to participate on various boards and committees related to criminal justice.

When I arrived at Sponsors 20 years ago, Sponsors was widely regarded as a thought leader and innovative provider of reentry services. In subsequent years, we have continued to innovate and advocate with great success for increased funding to support a range of reentry services. We continue to be invited to participate on and lead boards and committees related to public safety. With these opportunities, we have a responsibility to call out injustices and to advocate on behalf of the people we serve—people who rarely have a voice in the policies that directly affect them.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of George Floyd and other innocent Blacks have shined a light on systemic inequities that have festered for years in our public safety systems. Oregon is not exempt from the over-policing of black and brown communities, and disparate incarceration rates as a result. Blacks make up 2.2% of Oregon’s population and 9.4% of our state prison population. As a result, there has been increased pressure in Oregon to make meaningful changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

During this most recent legislative session, Sponsors helped advocate for a wide variety of bills. Here is a sampling of some of the bills we supported: Bail Reform—creates statewide framework for pre-trial release and the repeal of bail for specific offenses (SB 48); Conviction Integrity—allows prosecutors to revisit the fairness of previous convictions and sentences (SB 819); Elimination of Supervision Fees for people on parole and probation (SB 620); Expansion of Earned Time for people on supervision (HB 2172). Sponsors also played a key role in the passage of SB 397, legislation that meaningfully reforms Oregon’s expungement statute. SB 397 will significantly reduce wait times, look-back periods for eligibility, and the cost of filing fees, in addition to other needed changes. We also were a part of a unique coalition of organizations that called for broad sentencing reform, increased police accountability, community corrections reform, and investments in communities most impacted by over-policing (HB 2002). Unfortunately, the legislature failed to pass this bill, but the momentum it created will hopefully be the genesis of future reforms.

We are very proud of these many victories and grateful to the legislators who supported these bills. Sponsors will continue to amplify the voices of the people we serve and stay true to a long history of advocacy. Thank you for helping us create a more fair and just system.



Paul Solomon