The Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Legal System
West Valley City- Public Meeting
West Valley Cultural Celebration Center
March 18, 2004
6:00 pm- 8:00 pm
Commission Members Present:
Chief Randy Johnson
Larry Houston, Advisory Council Co-Chair
Kristin Miatani, CASA
William Aefiaki, Seraphi
Approx 40 community members
* Introduction and Welcome by Ed McConkie and Keith Hamilton
* History of the Task Force by Keith Hamilton
* Summary of Task Force recommendations and Commission Progress Report by Dan Maldonado and David Gomez
* Feedback Session facilitated by Ed McConkie
COMMUNITY FEEDBACK (SUMMARY)
Community Member #1: What do the Task Force recommendations address? Are there really hundreds of incidents of racial injustice?
Keith Hamilton (response): The Task Force recommendations do not address specific incidents of racial injustice. Rather the Task Force recommendations suggest changes to the legal system that would create systemic change. A copy of the report is available atwww.utcourts.gov/specproj/retaskforce/.
Community Member #2: The Commission is 20 years late in recognizing there is a problem. A Commission has been created but who is on this Commission? A You are lawyers and professionals. . . where do you live? . . . you must come to us.@ What has the Commission done?
The community member suggested the following:
* A transition center needs to be created to address the needs of the community
* There must be a change in attitude within the Department of Public Safety. Hiring a A rookie@ of Pacific Islander decent is a good start but it is not enough. Are officers culturally sensitive? A Do not call us > pineapple.= @
* The community member is a teacher at a local junior high. She states that the students do not trust police officers. The police need to build trust.
Ed McConkie (response): He acknowledged that the community is correct, racial fairness problems have been around for generations upon generations. The Commission is trying to address these biases however. Education is important to the community. Education on who has power and how to access the justice system is important.
Keith Hamilton (response): The Commission is trying to get the answers of what can be done to help. That is one of the importances of these hearings.
Community member #3: It was mentioned that the Commission has no funds. There is only enough money to hire a part-time staffer with no budget. How does that show where the governments priorities are? Also, it was mentioned that cultural competency training is required. Who put together the training and how does this ensure competency?
David Gomez (response): The Utah Multi-Agency Cultural Competency Curriculum (UMACC) used by Corrections, the Courts and other agencies was developed by a consortium of agencies including the multi-cultural legal center and the Ethnic Affairs Offices. The question of how change is determined is through feedback forms. People are very honest after the training in letting the trainers know their thoughts on the course.
Community member #3: If I am called a A pineapple@ or mistreated by law enforcement I don= t know where to go.
David Gomez (response): Every agency has a complaints process. During the incident there is still a power differential between an officer and the person. A person should register a complaint after the incident.
Community member #4: So there is not formal complaint process statewide?
David Gomez (response): The Commission does not examine individual complaints but each agency has a complaints process.
Ed McConkie (response): If there is a systemic problem, for example if there are many complaints about a particular agency, then the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness and CCJJ would become involved. When many complaints are filed agencies know it is in their best interest to work with communities to resolve the matter.
Also, when crimes are reported the location is automatically crime mapped. Crime maps are important in how agencies allocate resources. It is important to report crimes within the community regardless of whether people feel the police will resolve the matter or not.
Community member #4: Education is important. Information needs to be distributed to the community about the legal system.
Keith Hamilton (response): That is the value of these dialogues. As Commission members learn more about different cultures they become better at what they do. One of the Commission= s goals is to offer education. Keith offered to provide classes/ seminars if requested by the community.
Community member #5: See Appendix for a copy of the letter submitted
He noted that in the history of the juvenile courts there has never been a Pacific Islander supervisor. Pacific Islander PO= s with many more years of experience are passed up for promotions. Specifically in one instance four Pacific Islanders, with an average of nine years experience each, were passed up for promotion. Instead the supervisor position was given to someone with only three years of experience.
He also noted that there is a focus on diversifying the back end of the system (DYC and DCSF) but not front end (Juvenile Court Assessment and Diversion, Intake, and Probation).
Community Member #6: A letter read her statement. She mentioned that her son has been incarcerated since the age of 16. Her son has spent years in the system and never once has she been asked what would be best for her son.
The system needs to involve parents in the decision making process. The home is the best place for children. The system needs to work with parents to keep placement in the homes before sending them off to detention centers. Resources need to be assessable to parents help them keep their children in the home.
Dan Maldonado (response): If Youth Corrections did not involve the parents than Youth Corrections needs to make an apology and apologizes for not doing everything they should have to involve the parents. Dan offered to discuss this with the mother after the meeting.
Willaim Afeaki: Churches, communities and families need to be involved.
Dan Maldonado (response): DYC has been working with the Office of Pacific Islander Affairs to allow access when needed.
Ed McConkie (response): Ed asked a clarifying question to Community member #6, asking what part of the system she felt broke down and failed.
Community member #6: She felt shut out from the beginning. From the onset there was little communication and she felt A in the dark.@ She did not have money to hire a private attorney. Judges should make decisions according to the person and decisions should be made with the input of the parents, this is not happen in her case.
Community member #7: She identified herself as the head of counseling with the Asian Association of Utah. She noted that her office sees many Pacific Islander kids. She agrees that there is a sense of hopelessness that occurs when a kid is picked up again and again and again. Soon the hopelessness becomes self-fulling prophecy.
Ed McConkie (response): He reiterated a previous comment from a community member that this effort is long over due and that there is a huge gap in trust that needs to be fixed. He summarized the comments, noting the statements about under-representation in the juvenile courts and that families should not be shut out of the process.
Community member #6: She stated that her son was ruined by being away from the family for so long.
Ed McConkie (response): He noted that studies show that the deeper an offender is in the system, the less likely they will succeed. The Sentencing Commission is looking into alternatives to jail/ prison.
Community Member #8: If churches and communities became involved there would be less crime.
Ed McConkie (response): The Sentencing Commission conducted research and found that Whites are receiving less aggravating factors during sentencing than their minority counterparts. The problem is finding out why this is occurring. The difference could be with soci-economic factors (ability to afford attorney= s, ability to get private treatment).
Community member #5: What are the indicators and the baseline for examining changes? Is there a time line? What has the Commission actually done?
Dan Maldonado (response): The first indicator would be that kids are being sentenced disproportionately. The Commission has done much work and it= s progress can be tracked in the annual reports. CCJJ research is available online along with the Commission reports.
Community member #4: Probation Officers are the eyes and ears of the court. The courts need to examine if the PO did everything he or she could to find the most unbiased piece of information.
Ed McConkie (response): Everyone, including Probation Officers, have their own biases. It is important to educate staff in realizing those biases and preventing those biases from affecting an employees work.
Community ember #4: Probation Officers need credibility with officials and the community. There is a need for more probation officers of color, especially those that prepare PSI= s.
Community Member #1: Why is DCSF not on the Commission and at the table?
Dan Maldonado (response): That was something that the Commission had discussed and the Commission will put a partnership with DCSF on the agenda.
Ed McConkie (response): The Commission can certainly enlarge the circle to include DCSF but how are changes going to happen? Changes will happen only with community involvement. The community needs to have a stake in this process.
Larry Houston, Advisory Council (response): Agencies need to build trust with the community. The community needs to be constantly putting pressure on the Commission.
Ed McConkie: The Racial Profiling law is a tool that will be used to examine whether or not racial profiling is occurring at traffic stops. This database is completely confidential. However, only about 40% of the people are identifying race on their drivers license. It is important that people identify their race on their drivers license. The minute that law enforcement knows that it is being watched behavior changes. If nothing else the bill changes behavior.
David Gomez: He reiterated the Commission= s offer to provide legal education classes if requested by the community.
Bill Afeaki: There is a higher percentage of Pacific Islanders that are committed to maximum security. The Commission needs to examine why this is occurring.
David Gomez and Ed McConkie (response): They will look into it.