Oregon City to Ban Would-Be Criminals

ACLU lawyers of Eugene announced their opposition to the ordinance at a council hearing Monday night. While they expressed sympathy for business owners and residents in the downtown area, they proposed a different idea.

"We believe that the city and community would be better served by an ordinance that allows the municipal court, within the context of the related criminal case, to impose exclusion on an individual as a condition of release and upon conviction as a condition of probation," Oregon ACLU field organizer Claire Syrett wrote in the testimony. "This would ensure that anyone facing such an exclusion order would be afforded legal representation."

An ordinance that excludes offenders or potential criminals in a zone of a city could shift the problem elsewhere and give too much discretion to police officers in screening pedestrians, according to Syrett.

Eugene City Council member Andrea Ortiz, who proposed the city ordinance with Mike Clark, said she doesn't want to permit authorities to broadly exclude certain types of people from downtown.

"I'm very cautious when I hear people say things like, 'we don't want those people down here,'" Ortiz told ABCNews.com. "Some of the merchants are saying that. There's a lot of credibility behind what they're saying: there are youths on the street that don't have a lot to do and there are mentally ill people who don't have any place to go. But we should not paint everybody with a broad brush. If people are behaving well, whether or not they are homeless, I think we should welcome them in the downtown area."

The city council has set a vote on the proposal for Aug. 11.

Exclusionary ordinances are nothing new in the U.S., though few have gone as far as trying to ban people who have been accused but not convicted of a crime.

Both Eugene and Portland, Ore. have implemented exclusionary ordinances in certain parts of the cities. Portland's drug-affiliated exclusion law was set aside after issues of racial profiling arose.

In other states, laws have been upheld that exclude convicts. In Georgia, for example, the state's Supreme Court has upheld a law that allows convicts on parole to be banished from almost the entire state so long as they have one county or judicial district to go to.

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