Fewer criminals are being booked into jail, and many of those arrested may spend very little, if any, time there.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder recently sat down with FOX 13 News’ Scott McKane to discuss the issue and potential solutions.
Winder is blunt when it comes to the jail overcrowding problem, saying that by summer, those who have committed certain offenses will not be booked into his jail. He said several factors are contributing to the issue and adds the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.
“Certain types of offenses will no longer be allowed in our jail,” he said. “They will be, to the best of our ability, non-violent. They will be those who don’t pose an immediate risk to the community.”
Winder said there’s simply no more room at the inn.
Winder said the situation is being compounded by the valley’s growing population and the newly passed justice reinvestment initiative, which is the law that downgrades many felony drug crimes to misdemeanors.
“I’m in a weird position; I support it, even though it’s going to add to the frustration in the short term,” Winder said of the law.
The initiative means less prison time for some offenders, yet most of those crimes still merit a trip to jail.
Winder said: “Here’s the net effect: Those three factors, we are going to explode! We’re not going to be able to manage all those populations.”
Winder said while it isn’t a real solution, their short-term fix will be not booking certain non-violent offenders.
“That’s going to have a dramatic impact because a group of people that were previously being brought to jail routinely, that’s what officers relied upon,” he said. “The big question’s going to be: ‘Where are they going to go?’ I don’t know.”
The sheriff said he’s already had tough discussions with local chiefs of police, the Salt Lake County Council and County Mayor.
It appears as though the mayor is listening and is prepared to address the problem with a plan of his own. Mayor McAdams wants to implement a program called Pay for Success because he believes it will revolutionize how the county deals with certain classes of offenders.
The goal will be to divert those with drug or mental health issues away from jail and into treatment, and the provider won’t be paid until they’ve completed the task.
“No cop is fooled into thinking this system is working right now,” Winder said.
McAdams spoke about the dilemma created by the current overcrowding.
“I have to let people go because we can’t accommodate them at the jail, and you’re choosing which one is least risky to let go–and those are scary decisions to make,” he said.
So, after huddling with the sheriff and others, McAdams has decided on a plan of action he hopes will free up jail space for those who need it and potentially free hundreds trapped in a cycle of drug abuse and or mental health issues.
“Diversion and treatment has to be part of what we plan for in the future,” McAdams said.
It’s uncharted territory for the county, but McAdams said it’s a move with little financial risk for the county and one that could keep a lot of folks out of jail and on a path to a more productive life.
Winder said it won’t help with jail overcrowding in the short term, but he agrees Pay for Success could be a long-term game changer.
Winder said: “What are we going to do to actually effect rather than just react? It didn’t take us overnight to get to this place, it’s not going to take us overnight to get out of it.”
McAdams said bids for Pay for Success will all be in by the end of this month. The candidates will be reviewed, and the county should decide on one in June. The goal is to begin real work on the program by January 2016.
To read the full article, go to http://fox13now.com/2015/05/14/overcrowding-at-salt-lake-county-jail-means-fewer-bookings-come-summer-mayor-proposes-solution/