The ACLU of Utah Activist
The middle of the week is when lots of action happens at the Utah Legislature. And that was true during this first week of the 2018 session.
As opening day pomp and circumstance fades, an anti-abortion bill appears.
The Samoan-language version of our "New Laws in Utah about Juvenile Justice" brochure is now available!
As fall blankets Utah with cooler temperatures and colorful foliage, our office has been reflecting on the whirlwind of the last twelve months. During this time of rumination, while we can’t help but be reminded of the discontent and adversity that has peppered 2017, we are determined to move forward into 2018 with a positive outlook. We are concentrating on our mission, being proud of our work, and, perhaps, most importantly, we are focusing on being grateful to all of you who have made us feel prepared, strong, and supported.
As I come to the end of my second - and final - year as Board President, I’d like to reflect on what the experience has meant to me. It has been my great privilege to serve with extraordinary board members to help guide this amazing organization. The Board of the ACLU of Utah is made up of diverse, intelligent, and passionate leaders who are committed to the values and mission of the organization, and its continuous fight for civil liberties for all people in Utah. The relationships we formed on the Board strengthened our commitment to each other and the to success of the ACLU of Utah.
With the start of our 60th year just around the corner, we here at the ACLU of Utah are simultaneously charging ahead in our quest for justice for all Utahns and reflecting on what has been a remarkable and unusual year.
In late 2007, Anna Thomas (then Brower) joined the ACLU of Utah as our first full time Development Director. She was returning to Utah from Colorado where she had earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Denver, worked as an aide to U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, and as a community organizer for a small environmental non-profit organization.
Strengthening Community Connections For The ACLU of Utah: A Conversation With María del Mar González
María del Mar (Yes! It’s all her first name) is filling a brand new, one-year position at the ACLU of Utah as our Community Outreach Fellow. She assists in advancing our strategic priorities at the state and local levels while strengthening community connections and supporting local coalitions. You may have seen her on the streets at one of the many recent demonstrations or heard her speak at an event. Even after only a couple of months on the job, there is no doubt that María del Mar is making an impact on our work in Utah.
The leaves are changing colors along the Wasatch Front, and that signals to us that it’s time to start thinking about the 2018 legislative session. The Utah Legislature is often unpredictable, but some themes are likely to emerge as priority areas for the ACLU of Utah’s legislative team. As with past years, criminal justice efforts are likely to dominate our legislative agenda. We also intend to work on measures to improve women’s rights and to expand voting opportunities. Read on for a preview of just some of the bills we’ll be pursuing in the upcoming legislative session!
Patrick Harmon was shot and killed by Salt Lake City police on August 13, 2017. On October 4, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office finally released body camera footage of Mr. Harmon’s shooting death. The footage was made public 52 days after Mr. Harmon was shot and killed, despite on-going pressure from advocacy groups and media outlets. Prior to releasing the body camera footage, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced that his office ruled the shooting death of Mr. Harmon to be “justified.”
On August 14, 2017, joint agencies from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and the State of Utah began a collaborative effort in the downtown Salt Lake City neighborhood of Rio Grande, ostensibly to reduce crime. Over a month into implementation of “Operation Rio Grande,” the ACLU of Utah has seen very little to change our original assessment that this law-enforcement-heavy effort is “business as usual.” Now, somewhere between the second and third phase of implementation, this operation appears to rely simply on more of the same ineffective attempts to control the complex social issues of poverty, substance use disorder and mental illness.
Just like every other state in the U.S., Utah has an incarceration problem. On any given day, thousands of Utahns can be found behind bars, locked up in prison and jail facilities. In 1978, just 66.6 out of every 100,000 people in Utah were behind bars, serving time in either state prison or county jail. By 2015, the incarceration rate shot up to 216.7 per 100,000 people – that is more than triple the rate less than forty years before.
Take Action with the ACLU of Utah to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline!
Check out our first ever report on state legislation that criminalizes behavior and enhances penalties, contributing to "Utah's Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline"!
UPDATE: Check out the ACLU of Utah's October 2018 report, "Calculating the Real Cost of Operation Rio Grande"-- to learn why we believe Operation Rio Grande was a "hurried and heavy-handed response" that prioritized arrests and detentions over treatment and housing, and has left thousands of city residents much worse off than they were before. Download the report (PDF) Watch the October 18, 2018 Panel Discussion (YouTube) After five weeks of implementation activity under the umbrella of this operation, the ACLU of Utah has seen very little to change our original assessment of this law-enforcement-heavy effort as “business as usual.”
The Somali-language version of our "New Laws in Utah about Juvenile Justice" brochure is now available!