On Friday, June 22, 2018, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office participated in the first Youth Mentor Gathering, which included a panel of mentees, mentors and public safety leaders, including Portland Police Bureau Chief Danielle Outlaw, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and District Attorney Rod Underhill.
A goal of the event was to host a networking forum and to highlight the outstanding work mentors do each day, especially with youth involved in the criminal justice system. Multnomah County continues to make strides to work with youth involved in the criminal justice system to reduce recidivism. A key component to reducing future criminal behavior is to get youth access to education, job training and eventually jobs that pay wages to allow the youth to support themselves and their families.
District Attorney Rod Underhill thanked the mentors who attended Friday’s program, which was sponsored by Chair Kafoury and hosted by Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Eric Zimmerman, who specializes in gang prosecution.
“The work you do as a mentor is touching lives and helping the next generation of Oregonians,” Underhill said. “You should be proud of the work you are doing. I could not be more proud to have an office that is committed to improving the criminal justice system. We start by recognizing and accepting punitive sanctions must be used responsibly, especially when youth are involved.”
Over the past three decades, Multnomah County has made steady improvements within the public safety arena, according to DA Underhill.
“We sure can’t do it by ourselves,” Underhill said. “We don’t want to do it by ourselves so how can we do better, that answer is the community. We need to break down the barriers to help mentors to be able to have access to meeting youth who are criminal justice involved in our facilities.”
As part of his commitment to fostering youth-mentor relationships, DA Underhill urged the audience to expand the mentorship program.
“When I started 30 years ago, we didn’t have a program like this,” Underhill said. “It wouldn’t have existed. We’re on the right trajectory but we need more. We need more youth to become involved and we need more mentors. While we’re doing better than we have, we’re certainly not at the finish line yet. Let’s help each other out. We live in a community that is rich and full of opportunities and we need to push back on some of the wrong that is out there.”
Portland Police Bureau Chief Danielle Outlaw was also one of the panel members who attended Friday’s event. Outlaw urged collaboration and solutions that address pressing public safety issues.
“We have to be great partners,” Outlaw said. “My role is how we can be the best partner. We want the community to come to the table but to come with solutions.”
Chair Kafoury urged the development of stronger peer support networks for mentors so they can collaborate with each other. She stressed that a community working together will accomplish far more than individuals working separately.
“I think you’ve heard how crucial and how important you are in lives of these youth,” Kafoury said.
Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director