The Secrets Behind the Secret List

City Finally Reveals "Secret List" of Probable Drug Abusers—But Is the Program Worth Saving?


It's ironic that you choose to redacted last names "for privacy" after pushing for over a year to make the list public and available for those who would not extend the same courtesy. It's ironic that after comparing the program to Gestapo tactics, the people you interview describe how it has saved their lives. You express concern about the "long memory of the Internet", yet that's exactly what these vulnerable people are going to have to face. The "villains" in this saga care much more about actually helping these people and breaking the cycle than you or Mr. Rosenthal or Mr. O'Connor ever will. They are mercenary enablers. Joust the windmill, damn the consequences.
Nick Angel, as in, Simon Pegg's character from Hot Fuzz? Nice!

Copwatch Activist Handleman obviously knows what he is talking about. All you have to do is google "Project 57" and find out that it's a jail bed agreement for pre-arraignment lodging of arrestees. Has nothing to do with a "secret list" targeted for drug treatment. Clearly he's got his facts straight. Maybe the Mercury ought to check out the credibility of the people they quote before publishing it. It took me less than 10 seconds to google search to find that one out. Way to go guys!
Your best public writing to date.
50% of the list are African American. 6% of the general population are African American. That's all well and good, but it begs the question: what percentage of drug addicts are African American? If it's around 50%, then it's evidence of a problem in that population for sure, but would show that this program isn't racially targeted in any way; it just reflects wider societal problems. If it's around 20%, it's evidence that there's a racial element to the enforcement.

I know it's not an easy number to pin down, but even an estimate would be helpful, because it makes a huge difference to how we should react to this program.
O'Connor's idea is to take away drug treatment money and spending it on social workers (really? really?). I think Vance, Floyd, and Darryll would find that argument to be pretty nutty. Then again, O'Connor profits from the recidivism of those too poor to hire their own attorney.

On the topic of charges, it is and has always been a felony to possess any amount of the drugs we're talking about here. About 10 years ago, to reduce case load, the Mult. Co. DA's office decided to automatically reduce residue to "attempt". Take your crack pipe anywhere else in Oregon and you'll face a felony. The option of charging as a felony for the most chronic offenders was used to encourage people to agree to treatment. At the time, plenty of "activists" were arguing "treatment, not jail". Since you can't force treatment (something they like to ignore), charging the actual law in the most chronic cases (the folks in the worst shape and who needed the most help) was the incentive to commit to treatment.

The racial issue is a direct result of the geography of the program (primarily Old Town). If this program was in place in 1994 the list would be 50% Honduran and 50% white. Powder cocaine and heroin ruled downtown/old town. Crack was primarily in NO/NE. The fact is it's a logical target because the dealing there is (and has been for 30 years) out on the street, in a concentrated area, 24/7 even when every business is closed, and fuels nearly all of the downtown/NW crime. It has been a thorn in the city's side for decades.

To Renaud, don't play dumb on the issues of addiction. "...just by asking for it" is a huge roadblock for addicts. The 3 men featured were all out there 10 years ago. It was the "push" from the program that gave them a real opportunity to make the hardest choice an addict can make.
@AliceAbernathy: The Google hit you talk about the program as it worked in 2007. At that time, most of the Project 57 arrestees are drug related, and many of them had been arrested before. As of 2007 they'd noticed that there were a certain number of people that had gone though Project 57 multiple times, so they created a program within Project 57, (with what do you know, a "list,") called the "Chronic Offenders Strategic Intervention Program (COSIP)" to deal with those (at the time 15) people. Normally Project 57 is voluntary, because for those sorts of crimes that Project 57 targets the people are normally released on their own recognizance, but for those people it wasn't, (it doesn't say exactly how they do that, but certianly one way to do that is to charge those people with felonies instead of misdemeanor, which means that they'd have to post bail before they went to court, and given that bail money tends to be kind of hard to come up with when you are a serial drug dealer, that means that the vast majority of them would be forced to stay in jail.) The COSIP program also directed the police to work with those individuals to make sure they get the services, [read: treatment] that they needed in that time period. So while you are correct that Project 57 may not have been the "secret list" program itself in 2007 it certainly seemed to have generated a secret list, and the COSIP program within Project 57 in 2007 did exactly what the secret list program does now. Now, given that the secret list program existed back in 2007 and was ramped up in late 2007, how exactly do you claim that those have "nothing to do with" each other?

I'll tell you that you certainly can't claim that with 10 seconds on Google, but if you have more information, than that, by all means share it. However, there is a reason that there are reporters to look into the details on complicated issues, instead everyone spending 10 seconds on Google. Often times things are just more complicated than the title of a pdf from 2007.
Alice Abernathy as in, Milla Jovovich's character, from the Resident Evil films? Nicer!
Am I understanding this article correctly? Someone on the list had a misdemeanor for cocaine possession? I have a friend in her 30's who has a good job and a nice place and was caught with $10 worth of cocaine. She has no criminal record but she was charged with a felony and has to enter intensive drug treatment (STOP) for a year (consisting of 4 x a week, 2 hour meetings, random daily UA's, etc), pay thousands of dollars, go to court every 2-4 weeks for a year and then the charge will be dismissed. HOW did this person get a misdemeanor? I'm sure my friend would like to know because I think she's getting screwed.
I forgot to mention - you are also not allowed to drink alcohol in the STOP program, even though it is a legal substance. Drink a beer after work & fail a can go to jail.
Crack pipes only contain residue—it's usually charged as a misdemeanor. But in this case, if you're on the list, it's a felony. And you're right that STOP court is the standard course for people convicted of drug-related crime.

And while the city is spending $4.8million on this program, the county is struggling to find just $85,000 to keep the STOP court going.…
Residue possession is and always has been a felony. The Mult. Co. DA's office decided about 8 years ago that to cut case load they would begin automatically reducing residue cases to "attempted possession", which dropped it to a misdemeanor and an easier plea. The option to charge to go back to charging these as felonies has always been there because, well, it's a felony.

Oh, and Alice is hawt.
Yep! Except the basis for being charged as a felony is presence on the list. If you're on the list you get the felony. If you're off the list you get the misdemeanor. Speaking of which, there are only about three people in Portland who would be able to stick up for the program like Nick and Alice, and the irony is, I suspect they're among those who obstructed my work on this feature.

I hope this isn't on the city, county, or PBA dime, guys. I've only heard three people make these arguments repeatedly.

Nope, I don't have anything to do with you, your work on this feature, or the program you've been investigating. I've never met or talked to you, and I'm not on anyone's dime (I would have to guess what PBA even stands for).

What got me commenting on this article is the hypocrisy of fighting so hard to make these names public, and then not using their last names in the article out of respect for their "privacy"...something that Saltzman has been arguing all along.

As far as the felony goes, you get the felony if you're on the list and refuse treatment. Treatment is what everyone has been campaigning for, right? The reality is that when you're a chronic offender and hardcore addict, you'll eat 100 misdemeanors and not bat an eye. That's not normal, and is reserved for a relatively small group of people who's lives have deteriorated so far that they literally don't care. If it takes the threat of consequences from a felony to get them to make the difficult decision to go into treatment, then perhaps the ends justify the means since they did in fact commit the crime. Ask Vance, Floyd, and Darryll about that.

The truth is, I liked the article. I didn't like the fight to "expose" people who I consider to be some of the biggest victims of addiction in our city. That addiction is also directly affecting crime and livability in the city. There were other ways to audit or investigate the process without making it about these specific individuals, but people got so caught up in the "Gestapo" comparisons that it didn't matter anymore if it hurt the people they were claiming to be fighting for.

Thanks for clarifying. I appreciate it. I'd still be more comfortable talking to someone who went by a real name, instead of a British police officer from a movie, but you're probably "vulnerable," too. To exposure, I mean.

I haven't been fighting to "expose" people. I've been fighting for information about a shady program that's been kept under wraps for two years despite costing taxpayers $4.8million. This "victims of addiction," and "vulnerability" angle, it's being used to perpetuate the program but I see it as less important than the public interest in the end.

My editor agrees. Which is why we have continued to pursue the story.

As I mention in the piece, the only "victims" supplied to me were these three guys. So you think asking Vance, Floyd, and Darryll about the success of the program is the best way to measure its success? I think I'd be a pretty gullible journalist if I just took the three guys I'd been given by the people running the show and said, "OH, my mistake, it's marvelous, after all."
I agree with you. I didn't have any idea how you came across those three. I'm sure there are just as many failures because that's the nature of addiction.

I also agree with the concern over the cost. I think that's a completely valid angle.

The media angle, however, has always been "the list". It didn't help that Leonard was denying it's existence when everyone knew it existed, and perhaps much of the blame of where this went lies there (not specifically with only Randy, but you know what I mean).

Still, in the end, it was the public release of the names on the list that was the topic of City Council debate, attorney soundbites, and media coverage.

The program absolutely should not be secret. 4.8 million in taxpayer money absolutely should fall under scrutiny and oversight. Cost/benefit should be weighed. All that is good stuff. The focus was, however, on the public release of the names on the list...something I believe was motivated by something other than a quest for transparency. There should have been a way to deal with it without a public release.

Thanks for returning this to a healthy discussion. I just got a little fired up when you specifically wrote that you withheld their last names for privacy reasons considering everything that's been done to make them public.
I am by no means an expert on this. But here are some thoughts:

1) If the city says the program has a 70% successful recidivism prevention rate, then there should be some numbers to back that up. Saying the numbers are meaningless without evidence to the contrary is kind of silly. Also the headline "but is it worth saving" is silly.

2) The list is based on frequency of property/drug crimes committed in the city center, so I understand. Basically, drug addicts caught in the cycle of stealing to get drugs to use. So, its not a "deal for jail beds" as much as its a deal to get strung out serial property crime offenders out of the cycle of drugs and stealing. Apparently it works pretty well.

3) Regarding the racism charges, I think you can get over that pretty quickly by looking at the methods they use to determine who goes on the list. I think from what I've heard they are completely 100% race neutral, meaning it is impossible for the list to be racist. Like it is a blind system where the list is based purely on drug and property crimes committed and has nothing to do with anybody's perception of the race of the offender. If I'm wrong about that, then yes definitely it would be fair to revisit the issue of whether the list is racist. If not, stop making these racism claims because they are not well-founded.
So .... this is a good thing, right?
Hi Stu

I think the racial ratios may be related to the expectation of the crack user that the crack dealer is African American. People without dealer connections go to Old Town looking for street dealers they don't know and approach African Americans. It becomes easy for a African American desperate for drug money to scam and sell to these strangers.

Expectation may be the driving force behind the disproportional rate of African American arrests in Old Town. Then again the Bloods and Crips have cultures that encourage selling drugs to achieve social status. This may help provide a steady supply of young dumb African Americans will to throw away their lives on this fools gold.
Wow, you two guys are really going at it, let me tell you what I think about this "secret list." This is for Matt and Nick, Do I think its a good thing? Well for me it is. Being on this list has opened up oppurtunities for me to do something different with my life other than hang out down in old town manipulating people while I feed my drug addiction. Granted I could have asked for help a lot sooner, and possibly went another route into treatment. Didnt happen that way, this is how it happened, I'm not gonna get into how much better or worse the facility we went to for treatment, is compared to others, Because that is totally up to the individual. If a person has had enough and is" willing" to make a change it doesnt really matter what facility that they go to. Being at the level of a "downtown cracksmoker" is low, low low. The intervention that this list causes, presents a welcome choice for some of us, who would otherwise may never seek help even knowing that we want help and need help. Do I think it targets African Americans, not specifically, I think it targets people who have a problem dealing with life on lifes terms, who choose to bury themselves in their addiction. It just so happens that most of the people that are doing that in oldtown just happen to be African American.
I don't know folks, I keep thinking of the 6th amendment here.
The 6th Amendment doesn't apply here because these guys aren't actually charged with the crime yet. The clock only starts ticking when you're charged. As I understand it, the deal is, "you get treatment OR we'll charge you with a felony."
Well for the people that dont know you are charged with the felony, the only choice you have after that is jail or treatment.