Being poor shouldn’t mean that you are at a disadvantage when facing criminal charges, but too often, it does. The system for providing criminal defense to people who can’t afford a lawyer in Utah is fundamentally flawed, and county-by-county we fall short of what the Constitution requires. We fight for a well-designed and well-funded system of indigent defense in Utah, just as the Constitution of the United States requires.
Reason #9: Pushing for Criminal Justice Reform
Over 2.3 million people are in American prisons – over half of these for nonviolent crimes. The ACLU of Utah is working on the front lines of criminal justice reform that will dramatically decrease unnecessary incarceration, diminishing the tremendous human cost and financial cost to society.
Reason #8: Expanding the Right to Vote for All
The ACLU of Utah has worked tirelessly at the Utah State Legislature to protect voting rights in Utah. Last year, we successfully passed legislation establishing a pilot program for election-day registration in counties representing 74% of Utah’s population. We will continue our work to ensure that the right to vote is only expanded and never curtailed.
Reason #7: Protecting our Privacy
The ACLU of Utah worked hard to make Utah the first state to enact legislation that protects people from having police monitor their location information and the content of their electronic communications (from devices like cell phones and tablets), serving as a model for the rest of the country. We must continue to build statutory and legal protections to establish a 21st–Century Fourth Amendment that keeps up with technology to protect our privacy.
Reason #6: Holding Police Accountable and Decreasing Police Militarization
In Utah and across the nation, deadly police shootings are on the rise. SWAT team raids are overused and put the life of both civilians and police at risk. Police are starting to use body-cams without clear policies to ensure that they are not just another means of mass surveillance. Police militarization, involving the funneling of military grade weapons and equipment to our police departments, has contributed to an increasing distrust of police forces. The ACLU is working on the state and national levels to reverse these dangerous trends.
Reason #5: Defending Immigrants
We have always been a nation of immigrants, and today’s immigrants are an integral part of American society. In many instances, immigrants and their children are fleeing from untenable economic and political situations. Too often, immigrants bear the brunt of punitive laws and excessive government practices, leading to results like prolonged detention and family separation. At the ACLU of Utah, we defend immigrants against unfair treatment and fight to uphold their constitutional rights.
Reason #4: Advancing Racial Justice
Racial justice is a goal that we continue to strive for in Utah and as a nation. Though we have made progress, many problems of unequal treatment based on race persist. To name just one example, schools disproportionately funnel students of color into what we call the “School-to-Prison Pipeline,” in which school practices and policies push students from the classroom into the criminal justice system. We work hard to move towards equity and justice.
Reason #3: Successful Struggle for the Freedom to Marry
The freedom to marry for same-sex couples has finally come to Utah and most states across the nation. Now, we’re waiting (and hoping) for the United States Supreme Court to make this fundamental right consistent across the country. Years of work by ACLU and its partners as well as increasing social acceptance of LGBTQ people have turned the tide in favor of the freedom to marry!
Reason #2: Fighting Against Using Religion to Discriminate
As we push for full equality for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodations on a statewide basis, there has been a pushback for “religious exemptions.” We believe that freedom of religion must be protected and that the First Amendment and Utah law already strongly guard religion in Utah. However, when an “exemption” means that government officials can cite religion to pick and choose which members of the public to serve, or employers can claim that religious belief allows them to fire certain groups of people, we are not protecting religious freedom. We are allowing discrimination. We’re working hard at the state Capitol to prevent such discrimination.
Reason #1: Persistent Defense for You – Now and in the Future!
While politicians who support justice for all come and go, the ACLU of Utah has been here for nearly 60 years, with the national ACLU established nearly 100 years ago. Throughout this time, we have defended all people’s civil liberties. We are here for the long haul.