The ACLU of Utah Activist
The big question at the legislature...Will they or won't they?
Welcome to the 2015 Utah Legislative Session, everyone! The Session officially kicked off yesterday, mainly with ceremonies and networking. And this first week will see mostly appropriations meetings (budgets for various agencies will be presented), with some committee meetings in the afternoons.
By now, we’ve all seen the buttons, the hand signs, the T-shirts: “No Prison In (Insert Your Community Here).”
Current criminal justice and education policies and practices have led to the United States to incarcerate more people than any other country, with disturbing racial inequity.
After months and months of endless meetings, the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) deserved a big pat on the back last week.
The Director’s Chair: This is a prime time in Utah to make substantial inroads into criminal justice and policing reform.
This is a prime time in Utah to make substantial inroads into criminal justice and policing reform. The tragic police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American man in Ferguson, Missouri along with the police shooting of a 22-year-old African American man in Saratoga Springs, Utah have become flash points raising serious questions about racial bias in policing. In the days following Mr. Brown’s death and the resulting protests, it was revealed that in Ferguson, where the police force is almost all white, over 85% of all traffic stops involve motorists of color and over 90% of all those arrested are African American. Here in Utah, we’re also looking closely at how racial bias may impact our policing.
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2014 Fall Newsletter >> The ACLU of Utah has limited staff and funding, yet is faced with a huge number of requests for legal assistance from individuals and organizations. In almost all of our cases, we co-counsel and team up with volunteer attorneys. Since 1958, volunteer lawyers have provided invaluable support to the ACLU of Utah legal program. These volunteers include sole practitioners, recent law school graduates, as well as some of the state and nation’s most prominent lawyers and firms. In addition to litigation, attorneys help in several other important ways. For example, we sometimes need help analyzing proposed legislation that affects civil liberties. In addition, we sometimes provide comments on policies or address complaints to administrative agencies. Volunteer attorneys also assist in reviewing complaints and requests for assistance from the public. We could not have accomplished many of the significant victories we have achieved this year without the dedicated assistance of the following attorneys. We are grateful for their time and energy. We are always on the lookout for more cooperating attorneys. If you are interested in becoming involved, please visit our website at www.acluutah.org/legal-work/become-a-cooperating-attorney Michael S. Anderson, Parr,…
Many folks who turned out for the Prison Relocation Commission's most recent meeting on October 22 were likely disappointed, because the big news that they were hoping for never came.
A Salt Lake City West High School senior writes eloquently about the need to fight the growing trend, locally and nationally, to push some students out of school and into the criminal justice system.
By Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project According to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Henry Lee McCollum deserved to die for the brutal rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie. There's just one problem, and a frequent one in death penalty cases: Henry Lee McCollum didn't do it. Instead of tracking down the true killer, police and prosecutors went after Henry Lee McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown, two intellectually disabled and innocent teenagers. While his mother wept in the hallway, not allowed to see her son, officers interrogated McCollum for five hours, ultimately coercing him to sign a confession they had written. In a trial without forensic evidence and plagued by racial bias, these two half-brothers with IQs in the 50s and 60s were sent to death row. Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown, whose sentence was later reduced to life in prison, have been behind bars for the last 30 years. Read more >>
The Tribune recently reported on Utah’s “Justice Reinvestment” effort, undertaken with support from the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. These reports mention reforms that, if adopted, could reduce Utah’s prison population: tweaking sentencing guidelines, improving community supervision practices, and ensuring that “evidence-based practices” are used by judges, agents and counselors.
By Tanya Greene, Advocacy and Policy Counsel, ACLU For all we know, the "pharmacy" might be a high school science class. That's how a federal appeals court judge described Missouri's secretive death penalty system back in the spring. Shady medical experiments masquerading as legal executions have gone horrifically wrong in four states already this year. During the most recent, Arizona officials shot 15 separate doses of experimental drugs into Mr. Joseph Wood. This bungled execution lasted for nearly two hours, during which Mr. Wood gasped for breath 660 times and then finally suffocated to death. Read more >>
We are energized by our recent successes. The federal district court just released its decision in La Raza v. Utah blocking parts of HB 497, Utah’s Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act and severely restricting other aspects of it. Great news! Our 2011 lawsuit initially resulted in the court’s granting of a restraining order which stopped the law from going into effect for the past three years pending this ruling.
By Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project Last night marked the first executions in this country since the horrifically botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April. In case you've forgotten, it took Mr. Lockett over 40 minutes to die. He remained conscious, writhing in pain, as an experimental cocktail of lethal injection drugs failed to carry out their intended purpose. And until last night, this country went seven weeks without subjecting someone to the same sort of medical experimentation. Read more >>
This article features the ACLU of Utah’s class-action lawsuit representing Salt Lake City public school students targeted by law enforcement during a gang sweep.