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Utah is Ready for Criminal Justice Reform!

RFR19During this legislative session, one of the most pressing and exciting issues the ACLU of Utah is working on is pushing for a slate of criminal justice reform proposals.

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Winter Newsletter >>

During this legislative session, one of the most pressing and exciting issues the ACLU of Utah is working on is pushing for a slate of criminal justice reform proposals. Representative Eric Hutchings and Senator Stuart Adams are sponsoring criminal justice reform legislation that is based on the 18 common-sense recommendations made by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice in their November 12, 2014 report, and we are working very hard to make sure it passes.

Taken together, these recommendations could save Utah about $542 million over the next 20 years by averting nearly all the prison growth projected during that time period. 

One example of savings is by re-directing funding into community-based treatment and rehabilitative programs that work, instead of into more prison beds. At least these people won’t be branded as “drug felons” for the rest of their lives. So, not only are these reform measures more humane and cost effective, but they alter our overly punitive drug laws in a positive way.

RFR1Another recommendation is to change the penalty for simple drug possession from a Third Degree Felony (at least one to five years in prison) to a Class A Misdemeanor (up to one year in jail, and up to $2,500 in fines). Clearly, this is a far cry from de-criminalization – but it’s a fair step in the right direction. 

Raising their voices in public support for these reforms, over 100 Utahns gathered at the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 9, at the Rally for Reform event. Rally for Reform was organized by a diverse coalition of grassroots community groups including, Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, Utah Prisoner Advocate Network, Utah Prison Support, NAMI Utah, The Disability Law Center, and the Drug Policy Project of Utah. 

Speakers included people who have struggled with substance abuse disorders who have turned their lives around after serving time in prison, family members of those currently incarcerated, and legislators, including Rep. Eric Hutchings.  

RFR6TAKE ACTION FOR REFORM!

The ACLU of Utah fully endorses this proposed criminal justice reform legislation and we need 

YOU to endorse it, too!

Make sure that the common-sense, data-driven Justice Reinvestment reforms recommended by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice become a reality in Utah. We need serious reform and this legislation, sponsored by Rep. Eric Hutchings and Sen. Stuart Adams, is the step in the right direction. Please send them a quick message thanking Rep. Hutchings and Sen. Adams for their courageous leadership in proposing this reform

 For more information about our work to reform the criminal justice system in Utah, visit our website at www.acluutah.org/criminal-justice