ALL NEWS

Racial disparities in Utah prisons need study, lawmaker says

Nov 3, 2019, 10:15 AM
Coronavirus in Salt Lake jails...
Prisoners playing chess behind prison bars. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A proposal to study how implicit racial biases may play into the disproportionate number of minorities in the Utah prison system is in the works for the 2020 legislative session.

Republican state Rep. Marsha Judkins of Provo told the Standard-Examiner she is working on a prosecution transparency bill that would require the collection of data about the arrest, charging, sentencing and parole decisions to determine how they may be contributing to racial disparities.

Of people newly sentenced to prison in 2017, 43% were racial or ethnic minorities, according to the Utah Sentencing Commission. Minorities made up just 20% of the population overall that year, census data showed.

Statistics like those point to clear racial disparities, but without specific data, it’s hard to determine what’s driving it, Judkins said.

“This blind spot is due to our lack of specific data on the intermediate steps in the criminal justice system,” she said.

The issue is also important because the prison population is rising faster than any other state but Idaho, she said.

Prosecutors have incredible power in the criminal justice system, but little of their work is public, Judkins said. They decide who to prosecute, what to charge when to plea bargain or dismiss cases and what prison sentences to recommend.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said he would not oppose an effort to gather data if it’s paid for by the state.

Rawlings said he believes the numbers would ultimately show the decisions made by prosecutors in his office aren’t clouded by bias.

Former public defender Jason Groth said gathering more information could be an important first step.

“It’s hard to be critical of yourself as an individual and your office as well,” Groth said. “It feels like you’re being called a racist.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Utah State University researchers measure the temperature at minus 10 degrees in the Logan Canyon M...
Mark Jones

Monday morning’s cold temperatures nearly set new records

Cold temperatures Monday morning in northern Utah nearly set new records.
1 day ago
education legislation...
Mark Jones

One Utah lawmaker wants to ban cellphones in classrooms

One Utah lawmaker wants to ban cellphones in Utah classrooms.
1 day ago
Schools in the Cache County School District are on a 2-hour delayed start on Tuesday, Jan. 31, due ...
Devin Oldroyd

Freezing weather causes delayed start for Cache County School District schools

Schools in the Cache County School District are on a 2-hour delayed start on Tuesday, Jan. 31, due to weather conditions.
1 day ago
FILE - A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at ...
Aimee Cobabe

Bill banning vaccine passports heading to Utah Senate

A bill to ban vaccine passports is heading out of the Utah House and into the Utah Senate. The bill is similar to a failed bill from 2022.
1 day ago
A two-vehicle crash Monday morning on U.S. Highway 40 claimed the life of a 19-year-old man. Photo ...
Mark Jones

Crash in Uintah County claims the life of a 19-year-old man

UINTAH COUNTY, Utah — A 19-year-old man died Monday morning in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 40 in Uintah County. The Utah Highway Patrol says the crash occurred near milepost 137 at 7:11 a.m. The UHP says a 2017 Nissan Rouge was heading westbound. The 19-year-old victim was the driver of the Nissan Rouge. […]
1 day ago
It's so cold today (Jan. 30) that plumbers are expecting calls anytime from customers needing servi...
Curt Gresseth

When it’s this cold, keep your pipes from freezing. Here’s how.

It's so cold outside today that a plumber has joined the show to share tips on keeping your pipes inside and outside your home from freezing.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Racial disparities in Utah prisons need study, lawmaker says