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Utah Leaders Bring Reform to the State

| March 13, 2015

Thursday Utah took steps to curb anticipated growth in their criminal justice system.

Utah has always had low rates of incarceration, but in recent years that has begun changing. The prison population has increased by 22 percent in the last decade. Recidivism rates are at 46 percent. Legislators have realized that with current trends Utah will need to expect massive changes in the prison budget, particularly with the expected addition of 2700 new beds.

However, on Thursday, HB 348 passed both Utah Houses with overwhelming majorities. The legislation is strong action by leaders, intended to lower the high Utah recidivism rate. The bill emphasizes finding the best programs for offenders with addictions or mental illnesses while they are in prison, as well as strengthening the probation and parole systems.

This support will allow these systems to respond with immediate punishments are rewards for offenders who cooperate or violate the terms of their supervision. Immediate responses to violations have been shown to sharply cut down on recidivism through models such as the HOPE court.

Representative Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, sponsored the bill in the House, and Senator Stuart Adams, R-Layton sponsored it in the Senate. It passed with broad support from both parties. Speaking to ABC4 News, Hutchings called the new reforms “a game changer”and “one of the most monumental things we’ve done.”

“It’s anticipated that over the next 20 years we’ll save $500 million by doing this reform,” Rep. Hutchings said. “It’s huge and when you put those together, you can save a lot of money on the prison, save a lot of money on the move and change lives while you’re doing it, it’s perfect.”

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DIANNA MULDROW is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, where she focused on criminal justice and education policy. She has interned in the Governor’s Office, for the Chair of the State Board of Education, and most recently at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Education Freedom and Center for Effective Justice. She is now employed as a policy analyst for Right on Crime, focusing on juvenile justice. Muldrow has worked on many research papers and articles – for Texas and several other states – advocating for reforms in criminal justice that protect public safety in a cost-effective manner.

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