AP, February 18, 2018
Recent data show the percentage of minorities sentenced to prison in Utah has increased more than 40 percent — up from 33 percent in 2015 when the state passed a sweeping overhaul of the justice system.
The director of the state sentencing commission said the data suggest biases are creeping into arrests, prosecutions and sentencing.
“In general, this is a really tough problem, and it’s always been a problem in the criminal justice system in America,” said Marshall Thompson, commission director.
Utah Sentencing Commission data shows 43.2 percent of people receiving new prison sentences in fiscal year 2017 were racial or ethnic minorities.
The 2016 U.S. Census data says minorities make up 20.7 percent of the Utah population, including 13.5 percent Hispanic and 1.6 percent African-American.
“What is happening, though, is we have this persistent disparity,” he said. “There are ambiguities and nooks and crannies throughout the system where implicit bias sneaks in. There’s nothing overtly racist, but we all have persistent biases we’re not even aware of.”
“But let’s not beat around the bush — most of the judges are white,” he said.