New program at Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office aims to become model for the nation

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has a new way to work on criminal reform. The office is now participating in a new research project that will dive into case files and create a new line of transparency in the criminal justice system.

The American Prosecution Association, Yale Law School, and the Chan Zuckerburg Foundation chose the Salt Lake County District Attorney Office for the Elevating Trust and Legitimacy for Prosecutors Project.

“Salt Lake is small enough that we have a lot of collaborative partners we can speak to, but we are large enough that we have the same systemic challenges in any other place that you have out there,” says Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

“Our team agreed that Salt Lake County is the best fit for this pilot project because it is primed to embrace the concept and practice of procedural justice,” said David LaBahn, president and CEO, APA. “We believe their office has significant opportunities to implement changes agency-wide and make significant changes within their community.”

The project will look into case files that the office charged, prosecuted, and dismissed from 2018-2022, specifically focusing on the next 15 months.

“The exciting part of that is that the findings and the implementation of this then will serve as a model, as a blueprint to other prosecutor offices across the country,” DA Gill adds.

The goal is to use evidence-based data to create transparent policies and practices.

SLCo DA Sim Gill speaking with ABC4’s Jason Nguyen

“Critical self-reflection actually is the first necessary step to kind of make the systemic reform that we want to make,” says DA Gill. “It’s not about shame or blame, it’s really about delivering as a public institution, and doing our due diligence in a way that actually produces the change that we talk about.”

“Research tells us that we can build stronger, safer communities by focusing on how law enforcement interacts with the public and by building mutual trust. Our partnership with Salt Lake County will give us the opportunity to do this by applying practices that are grounded in empirical research,” said Caroline Sarnoff, director, Yale Justice Collaboratory.

DA Gill tells ABC4 that with this project, “reform is possible and necessary, and it does not have to compromise public safety.”

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