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Let’s end the extreme racial disparities in Utah’s juvenile justice system!

14 February 2017 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

UPDATE: HB239 successfully passed the Utah legislature and is awaiting signature by Governor Herbert. Many robust recommendations were removed from the bill, in response to vigorous opposition from juvenile court judges, some peer courts, school administrators and county prosecutors. The final version of the bill was still pretty good, however, and we were happy to see it pass. We believe it will help Utah start to make a dent in the stark racial disparities in our juvenile justice system.

The ACLU of Utah, in partnership with multiple other community stakeholders — including the YWCA of Utah, Voices for Utah Children, Racially Just Utah and Ogden Branch NAACP — has just released a new report detailing serious racial disparities in Utah’s Juvenile Justice System.

  • Using data collected and compiled by Utah's official Juvenile Justice Working Group, with support from the Pew Charitable Trust, the report details such stark facts as these:
  • Black/African-American youth make up 1% of Utah’s youth population, but they represent 12% of all kids placed with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services through the juvenile justice system.
  • In one judicial district, Latino/Hispanic youth make up 24% of the youth population - but 52% of all “secure care” dispositions resulting in out-of-home detention for these youth.
  • In another district, Native American youth make up 9% of the overall youth population, yet 41% of “secure care” disposition are imposed on Native American youth.

Ask your legislator to support H.B. 239, Juvenile Justice Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow and Sen. Todd Weiler. This bill would offer some common-sense reforms to Utah's juvenile justice system including:


  • • Keeping kids out of court for low-level status offenses like truancy.
  • • Bringing much-needed structure to the sentencing process in the juvenile justice system.
  • • Ensuring that kids don't spend time in detention just because they can't pay restitutions and fines.
  • • Creating specific performance requirements for community placement programs.


TAKE ACTION TODAY! It is time to begin systemic reform to address these issues. Ask your legislator to support H.B. 239, Juvenile Justice Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow and Sen. Todd Weiler.

This bill offers some common-sense reforms to Utah’s juvenile justice system, which will result in fewer harsh dispositions for youth who engage in low-level misconduct, such as truancy and so-called “status” offenses. It will bring much-needed structure to juvenile sentencing, and require important training for system workers. Young people, who might in the past have been inappropriately sent into juvenile court, will now have access to community- and school-based interventions that offer more opportunities for positive change.

Send an email to your state representative and senator asking them to support H.B. 239, Juvenile Justice Amendments.

Anna Brower, Strategic Communications Manager