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The ACLU of Utah Activist

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The Shadow Economy of Lethal Injection Drug Deals

03 August 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
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 >>

Overheated Gang Rhetoric Contradicts Reform Efforts

For months now, responsible elected officials and earnest public servants have been speaking the encouraging language of criminal justice reform: "evidence-based practices"...."doing what works"...."making policy based on facts, not emotion." There is growing recognition across the political spectrum that there are too many mentally ill people cycling in and out of jail, too many people in prison who really just need substance abuse treatment, too many new felonies created each year by the state legislature. And then, just when you're feeling hopeful, something like this happens. Yes, gang violence is a serious problem. Usually, it is most serious for the men and women who are trapped in gang life, but it's also a serious problem for the community members and law enforcement officers who encounter it. Certainly, gang issues deserve our attention. Our careful, data-driven, constitutionally-sensitive, non-panicky attention. What we do not need - especially when Utah is on the verge of making real progress in reducing our prison population and solving our serious recidivism problem - is to encourage law enforcement to overreact to community safety issues in ways that threaten civil liberties and perpetuate mass incarceration. I'm not saying that Utahns shouldn't be concerned about "outlaw motorcycle gangs."…

The Director’s Chair: We are energized by our recent successes

09 July 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
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.

The Definition of Insanity

17 June 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
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 >>

What is Driving Utah's Prison Population?

On May 15, analysts from the Pew Public Safety Performance Project made the first in a series of presentations about Utah’s criminal justice system. As part of a Justice Reinvestment process that Pew is undertaking with state leadership, this presentation offered information about specific “drivers” of Utah’s growing prison population. The information was derived from data obtained from the Department of Corrections and the state courts, then analyzed by Pew. This blog post is meant to be a quick recap of the Pew presentation, with a few thoughts from the ACLU of Utah thrown in! You can read the full presentation for yourself and draw your own conclusions: it is available for download at the bottom of this page.  While Utah does not incarcerate as much, per capita, as most other states, we are nonetheless bucking an important and positive national trend of prison de-population. Our state prison population grew 22% in the last decade, and is still going up. Nationally, prison and jail populations peaked in 2007, and have been declining since. The ACLU of Utah also likes to remind our fellow Utahns that while our rate of incarceration is relatively low, it is still inexcusably high by historical…

In Perverse Equation, Sketches + Skin Color = Gang Tagger

18 May 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
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.

Congratulations, Utah couples!

18 May 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Sign a Utah Unites for Marriage card congratulating legally married same-sex couples across the state.

America's Mentally Ill Are Being Treated Behind Bars

Check out this excellent article by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones, which refers to a new report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a group that works to remove barriers to effective treatment of mental illness throughout the United States. Our nation has long since made the switch from treating the mentally ill in mental treating them (poorly, according to the TAC report) in jails and prisons. Sadly, as Mencimer points out, this vulnerable group is also more likely to be overrepresented in solitary confinement, which has be shown to have incredibly detrimental effects on even otherwise mentally healthy people. They are also much more likely to commit suicide while in custody. The ACLU of Utah is currently working with state and county partners to help connect criminal-justice-involved people with the treatment they need - most often for mental illness and also substance use disorders - and save them from damaging time spent behind bars. To learn more about the policy challenges facing Utah in this area, contact Anna Brower, ACLU of Utah Public Policy Advocate, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Are More Drug Courts Really The Answer?

An interesting new policy report by the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that advocates for a public health approach to drug policy, questions the long-term efficacy of drug courts in reducing prisoners' return to jail or prison. The report also discusses evidence that drug courts may not be producing the intended or expected cost-savings benefits.

Demonizing children does not improve public safety

01 May 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Putting destructive labels on a child accomplishes nothing positive for the child, his/her family or our communities.

Curious Cop Downloaded Hundreds of Private Prescription Records Because He Could

13 April 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Today, the ACLU and ACLU of Utah filed an amicus brief in support of a Utah paramedic whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated when police swept up his confidential prescription records in a dragnet search. Law enforcement’s disregard for basic legal protections in the case is shocking. 

Send Off Celebration: Utah Stands United!

06 April 2014 Published in Past Events
Monday, April 7, 6 pm, at Library Square in Salt Lake City. Join us for a send-off celebration of the plaintiff couples and legal team in Kitchen v. Herbert as they head to Denver.

Introducing the ACLU's NSA Documents Database

02 April 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
The national ACLU has created a complete, and easily searchable, database of documents to help facilitate the public debate on the legality and propriety of the government's surveillance practices.

Only in America: 16-Year-Old Locked Up for the Rest of His Life

30 March 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Juwan Wickware wasn't the shooter. But he and more than 2,500 others nationwide will enter prison as teenagers, grow into adults, and die – all behind bars.

Utah Legislators Stood Up For Fourth Amendment

16 March 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
The Utah Legislature was divided this year, but the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is one place where legislators found common ground.

Court Hears Arguments in Marriage Equality Case

13 March 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
On Wednesday, March 12, 2014, U.S. Federal Judge Kimball heard oral arguments in the ACLU of Utah’s case Evans et al. v. State of Utah et al. We argued that Utah must recognize the marriages of all the same-sex couples who were given county licenses, and legally wed, after a Federal Court decision on December 20, 2013, declared that Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of that decision on January 6, 2014, halting all further same-sex marriages pending appeal. During that 17 day period over 1,000 couples were legally married. We felt that the hearing went well. The judge asked good questions from both sides and is now considering the arguments. We await his decision with great anticipation. We are grateful for our courageous plaintiffs and our co-counsels, Josh Block of the national ACLU LGBT Project, and the law firm of Strindberg & Scholnick. See some photos of the plaintiffs and attorneys after the hearing >> More information about this case, including all documents filed in court >> Salt Lake Tribune: Utah’s decision to freeze same-sex marriages debated in court (3/12/14) >> Fox 13 Video: Judge to decide if Utah…

Court Schedules Hearing in ACLU of Utah Suit for State to Honor Marriage

06 March 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
On February 4, 2014, the ACLU of Utah filed a motion with the federal court seeking an order that the State must immediately recognize marriages of all same-sex couples married in Utah.

To Protect Privacy, Utah Attorney General Gives Away Some of His Power

05 March 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
In February 2014, the attorney general for the state of Utah did something remarkable, something that law enforcement officials hardly ever do: He willingly gave away some of his power.

ACLU Argues That Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Demands Heightened Court Scrutiny

05 March 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
On March 4, 2014, the ACLU of Utah, the ACLU of Oklahoma, and the ACLU LGBT Project filed an amicus brief in Kitchen v. Herbert on behalf of themselves and 19 other civil rights organizations.

My Liberation Is Bound With Yours

19 February 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
A couple of newsletters ago, I discussed the importance of recognizing the interdependence of everyone’s rights.  I ended my thoughts with this quote by Lila Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”