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A new law limiting mugshot releases goes into effect in Oregon

Kindel Media

Booking photos are no longer being released to the public in Oregon. It’s an effort to protect the privacy and safety of people who have not been convicted of a crime

The new bill prohibits the release of mugshots except in specific circumstances, such as to other law enforcement agencies and to the public in the case of an emergency.

Proponents of the bill say that releasing mugshots before a conviction can have serious safety issues. After the 2020 protests in Portland, many people who were arrested were doxxed and harassed when their photos were released, according to state Representative Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley).

Bynum sponsored the new bill. She says that after working on a bill about doxxing, she realized how dangerous the release of booking photos could be to people’s safety.

“When law enforcement agencies were releasing booking photos, people were also suffering harm from that,” says Bynum. “They were getting threats at their jobs, they were trapped inside of their homes because people were intimidating them.”

Bynum says that the release of mugshots was also disproportionately affecting people with mental health challenges.

“One police chief said, it’s often the worst day of a person's life. And we agreed as a group that those people were somebody's somebody and we could do better as a community”

Tom Bivins, a professor at the University of Oregon, says that this new law helps to protect people’s privacy.

“It used to be you’re innocent until you're proven guilty,” says Bivins. “I was reading an article from, I want to say, The Atlantic the other day. That basically said in today's environment, in the social media environment, you’re no longer innocent until proven guilty, you're guilty until you can prove you're innocent.”

Law enforcement groups helped craft the bill and it passed with bipartisan support.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.