Respect for OCDLA Fighting for Justice
Political interest groups are known for advancing the personal interests of their members. Thus, the NRA fights to preserve and protect the Constitutional right of Americans to keep and bear arms. The AMA and ADA seek to advance the economic interests of doctors and dentists. The NEA can be relied on to advance the interests of teachers.
Against this backdrop, I would like to commend an organization that actually works contrary to the private economic interests of its members, in the pursuit of justice.
The organization I refer to is the Portland, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, an organization of attorneys and others who devote their career toward the defense of persons who are accused of crimes.
Of course, OCDLA provides direct service to its members in its sponsorship of high-quality seminars and its publication of excellent legal materials that are used by attorneys, investigators, paralegals and others who work in the criminal defense field. But that is not the focus of this article.
What is noteworthy about this organization is that, in its public advocacy activities, OCDLA has been a reliable advocate for restraint in sentencing policy. OCDLA has established a presence at the Oregon Legislature which is respected by Democrats and Republicans alike. Whenever there are debates on issues pertaining to sentencing policy, OCDLA can be depended upon to oppose harsh mandatory minimum sentencing schemes that have served to drastically increase Oregon’s prison population.
Since 1995, with the advent of Ballot Measure 11, Oregon has embarked on a costly prison expansion spree. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been diverted from education and human services toward the incarceration of an ever-expanding prison population. Even as violent crime has diminished, the wild expansion of our prisons has proceeded unabated. Judges have been stripped of discretion and prosecutors have been empowered to call the shots.
Only OCDLA has provided a voice of sanity. Only OCDLA has pointed out that our State is harmed, not helped, when we divert scarce resources away from rehabilitation and into incarceration. Only OCDLA has emphasized that, by empowering prosecutors and stripping judges of discretion, the delicate balances of our legal system are thrown out of order.
If OCDLA cared only for improving an economic lot of its members, it would not advocate strenuously for restraint in sentencing policies. Indeed, harsh sentencing laws actually bring financial benefits to those who defend clients facing the most serious of crimes. By supporting OCDLA, criminal defense attorneys show that they are motivated not merely to advance their own narrow economic interests. Instead, our support of OCDLA demonstrates that we care about those among us who are less fortunate and that we truly seek a criminal justice system that is characterized by fairness and sanity.
For more information about the important work of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, click the OCDLA’s website, at www.ocdla.org.