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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Word from Senator Greiner

Discussion continues. Senator Greiner sent this in response to the Sutherland E-mail.

>>> Jon Greiner 7/15/2009 3:40 PM >>>
To All;

I have watched with some interest the debate through our E-Mail accounts, the issue of SB-81, and who has the correct numbers for whatever position on this issue our personal or constituent position leads us. I see the points of view of Representative Herrod and those of the Sutherland Institute, both of which reach their conclusions in an acceptable manner but may not have the complete picture, although they both have tried, and offer this thought process for all representatives since this is a public issue with high emotion on both sides. Naturally I expect each of you, including the Sutherland Institute, to treat my thoughts the same way.

In 2008, I had asked that the Department of Corrections bring to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee what information they may have on the issue of illegal residents in Utah and their numbers in the criminal system. A presentation was made by their analyst, Mr. Cliff Buttars, on June 18, 2008. Unfortunately the numbers, in my opinion, didn’t answer all the questions, they only created more! The reason for much of this is that nobody has an accurate measurement tool. Why? The reason is nobody has until SB-81 been required to determine citizenship at some point in the criminal justice process. SB-81 now requires a county sheriff to make a reasonable effort to determine citizenship of someone confined in their facility, this will help with the over 18 age group. Also, a person begins their confinement history in a county jail so those in the prison system should already be identified as citizen or non-citizen; something the Corrections system didn’t have 100% confidence in for their numbers.

As one who gets asked about crime numbers on a regular basis and one who has thirty five years of experience in this area let me lay a foundation for each of you to draw your own conclusions from.

Utah’s population is roughly 89% Caucasian according to the 2000 census. The other 11% is all the other diversity our state has to offer, many of which are of Hispanic descent. The Hispanic race is the second largest, around 7%, of Utah’s population according to the same census data. Naturally there are combinations of races and so these numbers are merely rough estimates that have changed since 2000. Each Utah community is going to have higher or lower numbers of these basic demographics.

Utah’s crime rate, that which we measure with what we call the Uniform Crime Rate, UCR, is roughly 4-5% state wide for violent crime and 95% for property crime. I send, as an administrator of arrest data, for crimes, to the State of Utah monthly a breakdown of statistics. These statistics include type of crime for arrest, age of the person arrested, gender of the person arrested, race of the person arrested and a number of other statistical data sets. The point is here that there is a lot of statistics gathered each month that could already be used if those interested wanted to agree on a measurement of them over time.

Nobody knows for sure how many illegal residents we have in Utah but let me give basic numbers as they relate to arrests for my community and discuss Mr. Buttar’s numbers from the committee meeting, a portion of which the Sutherland Institute used in their “Just the Facts” piece.

Our community has a diversity index higher than most communities in Utah. Our community is represented by a roughly 25% Hispanic population, again some of this number are going to be a combination race and some are going to be here illegally. In terms of monthly arrests our community, over the age of 18 group, has about a 35% rate represented by members in the Hispanic population. In the under 18 age group the arrest rate is about 48% for the Hispanic population. These numbers have been going up, marginally for the over 18 group, for years for all types of crimes. However the under 18 group is another story and they represent over 25% of the reported crime and won’t generally show up in a county jail or prison count because they don’t get to that system. Their numbers, the under 18 group, including violent crime, have been going up. This of course causes a natural question about how much of this crime may be caused by an external factor, a factor of say citizenship and/or gang affiliation or something else.

Mr. Buttars represented to the committee that about 30% of the inmates in the corrections system of 6,000 were there for violent crimes, because of longer sentences. He also represented that 308 of the violent group offenders were illegal, on a specific date, as compared to the same specific date in an earlier year of which there were about 280 and that about 70% of the illegal group came from a Latin American country. What this means is that the violent incarcerated illegal offender numbers increased by 10% over a 4 year period. These are the same numbers the “Just the Facts” piece use with their estimate of a thirty-six percent increase in the illegal population from 70,000 to 110,000 between 2004 to 2008. However there is no way to really measure this population increase as opposed to the hard number of a 10% increase in violent illegal offenders, the population number is an estimate. County jail data, as used by the Sutherland study, has inherent problems since the usual offense in a county jail is a property crime offense and due to a lack of total bed space in the whole system the illegal offender is just as likely to be deported, if possible, rather than incarcerated for a property crime conviction. That coupled with the fact that in Mr. Butter’s testimony there may be as many as 10% of the prison Hispanic population that the prison still doesn’t know the citizenship of!

My point is this; the violent illegal offender prison numbers are going up and I personally can’t rationalize that with the fact that someone estimates the number of illegal residents, regardless of race, in our state is going up even more. The citizens of my community are very sensitive to crimes like Murder, Rape and Robbery, whatever those numbers are when they go up or a legal citizen is a victim. Since 95% of our annual property crime hasn’t really been attributed, where it may partially belong to the illegal group, the crime numbers attributable may be more egregious , but at least with SB-81 we may start getting some accurate numbers to the question of impact by illegal citizens in our criminal justice system.

Let the debate continue!!

Jon Greiner

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Senator Greiner,

It's not a secret that our jails, prisons, and juvenile justice facilities are over represented with minorities. It sounds in your e-mail like you're trying to find hard data that would justify a eugenic approach to this issue.

Instead I suggest you dig a bit deeper. You have many resources at hand (so many at the University of Utah alone), and try to find the real roots of the problem. You'll be gladly surprised (I hope) to know that when Latino immigrants are empowered with education, and the necessary tools to navigate through the system, they are quite successful.

It's time to stop the dehumanization of immigrants. It's time that legislators like Herrod, Sandstrom, Greenwod, Dayton, Wimmer, Frank, Noel, and Gibson, among others, set aside their nativist views, and see the big picture.

7/15/2009 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, the old "root causes" defense. It's not their fault they commit so many crimes. It's the system's fault. The man is keeping them down, and we need to tax the rich and big business to solve the problem. Whatever.

Anon #1 proves that if you can't win on data, analysis and logic, you have to resort to name calling, like nativist.

Hispanics commit a disproportionately higher share of crime primarily because of poverty. The same has been true with almost every low-income immigrant group in this country. That's why a lot of us want a lower level of immigration from poor countries. And it's not because we hate brown people (as Paul Mero would have you believe). We want safer streets, lower prison populations, and better schools.

7/16/2009 7:03 PM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

Here is the text of the Sutherland Institute Emailed response to legislators:

Dear Representatives and Senators,

Sutherland acknowledges the thoughtful contribution and informative presentation that Senator (and Ogden Police Chief) Jon Greiner added to the recent dialogue on SB 81. We view Senator Greiner’s response as constructive and reasonable. While we understand that an endless back-and-forth on any given issue can become tiresome, we would like to briefly respond to just one point he raises.

Senator Greiner accurately notes that perfect data measures do not exist in the dialogue surrounding SB 81. Indeed, as experienced decision-makers, you recognize that perfect information rarely exists in any policy debate. Given this fact of human experience, we must obtain and utilize the best information available and determine if it justifies specific policy decisions. This was one of Sutherland’s objectives in producing the Just the Facts report.

Through our research, we have become convinced that SB 81 is a solution looking for a problem. The holy grail-type quest for “proof” that undocumented immigrants are ravaging our communities is just one example. It carries the insidious assumption that undocumented immigrants are different than us. That is not only wrong on its face, but immoral in its human implications. We are quickly moving down the road of a statistical witch-hunt. Again, we are not measuring “widgets”; we are rushing to measure real human beings – and that should give us pause.

At Sutherland, we like to think that Utah can be a constructive example to the rest of the nation in so many positive ways. One way is to honestly admit that an err in judgment has occurred – that SB 81 should not have been passed, that as a state we rushed to judgment, that we didn’t have accurate data points to cast the kind of judgment it represents, and that somehow our prudence left the room for a moment in time. The best example we can set for the nation, in this case, would be to repeal SB 81, start over, and earnestly try to determine what the problem is, if any, and then effectively address it.

This kind of introspection and honesty requires courage. Our experience with each of you assures us that you have such courage.

-- Sutherland Institute

10/13/2009 3:59 PM  

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