County Criminal Justice Overhaul Starts With Pilot Programs (KUER)

Salt Lake County officials rolled up their sleeves and got specific this week about how to implement criminal justice reforms. 

The county council extended a $9.4 million property tax levy to pay for the rollout, which includes two pay-for-success programs expected to reduce recidivism and keep homeless people out of jail. The money will also pay for the construction of a community corrections center, designed to rehabilitate paroles and inmates who are nearing release. In the meantime, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says they’ll be reviewing the programs and collecting data to see if they work. 

“That will be important,” McAdams says. “It will help people in the pilot, but if we really want to go to scale with those programs, we’re going to need Medicaid expansion.”

First Step House and The Road Home have worked over the past year to develop the programs, which will serve up to 300 people.  McAdams says they’ll start in about six months.

The county will also put roughly $2.3 million into a receiving center pilot program in which people can get behavioral and mental health services and detox instead of going to jail. Republican County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton says that’s going to require some planning with law enforcement.  

“Because of such limited capacity in the jail, we really need to start defining, what are some other ways that we can send a message that it’s not acceptable but still not utilize a maximum security facility for their lockup,” Newton says.

The county has also asked the state legislature money to fund affordable housing, more homeless shelters and improved screening and assessment for people who come into the criminal justice system.