Is it any wonder that Utah leads nation in convictions for drug possession on public lands when the Forest Service conducts illegal searches? While it is true that marijuana remains illegal in Utah and the federal government controls 60% of the land in the state – it is also true that the cases behind the headlines negatively affects tourism and places an unwarranted burden on judicial and correctional resources.
On the positive side – Utah prison drops ‘English-only’ rule during visits to inmates in the wake of Governor Herbert’s appointment of Rollin Cook as the Executive Director for the Department of Corrections. And there is discussion about expanding the use of Veteran’s Courts within the state; particularly on the District Court level (Utah considers creating more veterans’ courts).
“We should treat them differently because they are different,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Warner, who started the federal veteran’s court in in Salt Lake City. “They’ve had different experiences. And in most instances, we’ve sent them into harm’s way.”
The Department of Justice is even talking about the need for sentencing reform. In its annual letter to the Sentencing Commission, the DOJ acknowledges the need for reform based on “advances in knowledge of human behavior as it relates to the criminal justice process” while reaffirming the commitment to “continue to improve public safety while ensuring justice for all by means of the efficient use of enforcement, judicial and correctional resources.” The letter is available here.