In 2014, after years of study and deliberation, the legislature made the decision to move the Utah State Prison. In 2015, among the major issues we confronted were those of funding construction of the new prison and reforming our criminal justice system.
The current prison needs hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements just to keep operating at current capacity. It is unable to accommodate programs proven to reduce recidivism and more likely return prisoners to productive lives upon release.
Unfortunately, the current prison structure doesn’t allow for many of the reforms recommended by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice that are integral elements of these new programs.
We made unique, once-in-a-lifetime decision to not only build a new prison, but to do it in a way beneficial to our state for generations to come.
It’s the classic chicken and egg. Rep. Eric Hutchings indicated as much when recently linking a his bill proposing sweeping judicial reforms with the eventual move and rebuild of the Utah State Prison.
Policy recommendations, developed as part of an exhaustive eight-month CCJJ review of the state’s corrections and sentencing data, helped pinpoint what works to reduce recidivism.
Hutchings’ HB348, crafted to incorporate the CCJJ’s recommendations, strives to achieve improvements in four key areas:
- Strengthening community supervision to improve accountability and rehabilitation.
- Shutting the revolving prison door by improving reentry and treatment services to reduce recidivism rates and increase public safety.
- Ensuring taxpayers are getting their money’s worth on their corrections investment.
- Reserving sufficient prison space for serious violent offenders.
But central to these ambitious reforms is a needed new prison facility built to state-of-the-art standards capable of supporting programs designed to control corrections growth and spending while holding hardened offenders accountable.
- H.B. 348 Criminal Justice Programs reform
- Utilized new treatment and rehabilitation programs proven to reduce recidivism
- Provided for individualized evaluation of prisoners in order to provide better resources and targeted programs
- A necessary tool is a new prison with the facilities to accommodate these reforms
- H.B. 454 Prison Development Amendments
- Established the process for finalizing the location of the new Utah State Prison
- Gave responsibility to the Legislature to vote on the Prison Relocation Commission’s recommendation and granted the governor the ability to sign or veto
- H.B. 288 Line-of-Duty Death Benefits for Peace Officers and Firefighters
- Increased line-of-duty lump sum benefits for public safety officers and firefighters
- Requires certain health coverage be provided for the surviving spouse and children of a peace officer or firefighter who does in the line of duty under certain circumstances