ST. GEORGE — Lowry Snow may be a state legislator, but in many ways, he is like most people: a knot of contradictions. A former prosecutor, Snow has pushed juvenile justice and education reforms since he was elected in 2012.
“I once sat down with some young people who were incarcerated,” Snow told St. George News. “I was struck by the fact that many of them had no idea out to get out of their situation. They had no idea of how to move their life forward, so they experienced a complete lack of hope.”
Since 2017, he’s been on the Utah House Education and Judiciary committees. Snow has chaired the former for the past two sessions, and he was vice chair of the latter in 2017 – which makes sense, he said, given his experience as a lawyer.
In 2018, Snow spearheaded sweeping juvenile justice reform legislation that aimed to reduce the number of youth locked in detention by amending a swath of laws pertaining to when and why youth may be taken into custody.
The Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services released a report on Jan. 8 that cited a 46% percent reduction in youth locked in detention statewide and a 19% increase in early intervention.
Additionally, the report stated, $9 million was reinvested into front-end services – the result of legislation sponsored by Snow and signed into law in 2018.
“We want to reinvest that money into services for families and children,” Snow told St. George News.
He said he was proud of the fact that when a Salt Lake City judge who handled juvenile cases retired, they didn’t need to replace him.
“We transferred the funds to the 5th District in Washington County and brought in a judge to handle adult cases,” Snow said.
‘I wasn’t the best student’
The fourth eldest of eight children, Snow grew up in Bountiful, Utah. Though his parents didn’t have degrees, they emphasized getting an education. After earning an undergraduate degree from BYU, Snow earned a juris doctorate degree from Gonzaga University.
“I worked my way through graduate school while supporting a family,” Snow said. “As a prosecutor, I wasn’t making enough money to survive. So I had to move onto something else.”
In 1986 Snow helped found Snow, Jensen and Reece P.C. Today, Snow and his wife, Sheryl, have six children and 17 grandchildren.
Snow said that he doesn’t seek out attention. In fact, even when it comes, he has a way of subtly eluding it. That may be why he demurred, citing research studies, in January when St. George News asked him why he took an interest in juvenile justice reform.
“I’m trying to get to the headwater,” he previously stated.
This time around, St. George News asked him again why juvenile justice reform seemed to top his list of legislation. Again, he alluded to studies, science and statistics on recidivism, but after a bit of prodding, he laughed.
“Am I being psychoanalyzed?” he asked. Then he spoke briefly about his own childhood in Bountiful, Utah.
“I wasn’t the best student,” he said. “I was a bit shy, withdrawn.”
Analysis aside, much of Snow’s legislation, though aimed at the juvenile justice system, includes some form of help for young people who are struggling for various reasons: young people who’ve suffered from trauma, literacy initiatives, civics education, protections for victims of domestic violence and expanding special programs for children who may not be performing at the level of their peers.
On Monday, Snow will participate in a virtual briefing where Gov. Spencer Cox will sign two bills into law for which Snow played a part: HB 328, an adult learners grant program, and SB 136, which Snow co-sponsored in the House and which provides for the Opportunity Scholarship Program and amends provisions related to higher education scholarships.
Though Snow has scaled back his work in the courtroom, he still represents a few young people who face juvenile charges.
“I want to help these young people, and their families,” he said. “I’m still fascinated with the process. And studies show that young people who’ve gone awry can rebound quickly. As they get older, it gets harder. Early intervention is the key to success for young people, as well as our communities.”
This story is part of a weekly St. George News series highlighting the lives and backgrounds of Utah lawmakers who represent people in Washington and Iron counties. See previous entries below.
- Rep. Travis Seegmiller strives to balance past, present and future
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