It's common for some to consider themselves in the vanguard of history, and equally common for them to end up in history's dustbin. Locally, it is not as common to see such vainglorious self-regard coupled with nasty assaults directed at respected public servants. Yet such was the essence of Shannon Wight's letter regarding your story on the juvenile justice system ["Spare the Jail, Spoil the Child?," WW, May 7, 2014] and Chuck French and John Foote, who were mentioned in it.
Her ad hominen attack on French and Foote was perhaps an effort not to address the substance of the juvenile justice issue. To give just one example of the facts Wight would probably like to avoid, 10 years ago juvenile drug-crime rates in Oregon were below the national average. Since then, armed with the philosophy of Wight and her organization of not involving "minor" offenders in the system, county juvenile departments have been closing huge numbers of drug cases at intake with mere warnings or less, and without supervision or treatment.
Now Oregon juvenile drug-arrest rates are 88 percent above the national average, and we have the second-highest juvenile drug-crime rate in the nation. We also have one of the highest juvenile drug-addiction rates in the country. How's that working out for kids?
However, maybe there is an upside to Wight using personal attacks instead of dealing with the facts, because when addressing the substance of an issue, she seems to have an equal inability to get it right. Earlier this month, she told The Oregonian that a long-standing policy of the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office regarding juveniles was "contrary to state law." In fact, during the two decades the policy was in existence, no attorney, let alone the respected Metropolitan public defenders for which Wight once worked as a trial assistant, ever managed to get a judge to say so. Of course, that's because the policy was not "contrary to state law."
Equally wrong is her claim that prosecutors have no oversight. In addition to being subject to vigorous ethical supervision from the Oregon State Bar and special ethical rules, the head prosecutor in each county is subject to the supervision of the electorate.
Maybe next time, instead of reaching back to the dinosaurs or simply saying things that aren't true, Wight can borrow from the relatively more recent past and say to those who adopt her misbegotten policies, "Après moi, le dèluge."
PSU STUDENT VS. INSTRUCTOR
Some folks succeed on their own merits, others try to succeed on the backs of others ["Wipeout!," WW, May 21, 2014]. When the pattern is revealed, the truth comes out. Thanks for this revealing story.
It's inexcusable that Portland State has no policies to protect students' [ideas] and to make clear its ethical expectations of faculty.
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