There is a crisis going on in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande District. An epidemic of crime has plagued the community in recent years. To combat the district’s crime wave, city officials announced a plan to spend $700,000 on the addition of 150 jail beds to the Salt Lake County Jail. The proposal is hailed as an effective short term solution. But will it ultimately reduce crime in the troubled area?
A Crisis Situation
The overcrowding of jails in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah has not gone unnoticed. Recently, the State Legislature has made an effort to increase the budget on building more jails and creating more jail beds to house more prisoners. State House Speaker Greg Hughes announced the State Legislature will devote $2.8 million to create 300 more jail beds in Salt Lake County. The county would have to cover the remainder of the costs. However, the money will not be available until July 1. In the meantime. Some city officials are calling it a crisis situation.
“We are overwhelmed with the number of human beings who need occupancy in the jail,” said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder. “We have been in that situation for a number of years.”
A Sense of Urgency
Although July 1 may not seem that far away, but according to Salt Lake City law enforcement officials, the aid could not come soon enough. In addition to providing extra jail beds, the money would also pay for other county jails to take more inmates from the Salt Lake County Jail. It would also allow the county jail to free up 150 more beds to be used for more hardcore criminals. Salt Lake City Police officials believe the move would make an impact in reducing crime downtown.
Does More Jail Space Reduce Crime?
By sending Salt Lake County inmates to other jails throughout Utah, Sheriff Winder says it would lessen restrictions on local law enforcement when it comes to keeping criminals off the streets. In addition to jail overcrowding, another catalyst for the new reforms is the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, designed to keep people with mental health and drug issues out of the state’s prison system. Winder proposed making a greater priority to lock up violent criminals rather than drug offenders. The move has come under criticism of Police Chief Mike Brown, who says the system allows repeat Salt Lake City drug crime offenders to remain free. Mayor Jackie Biskupski plans to ask for $2.5 million to focus on programs to assist the homeless.
What Are the Solutions?
Ask any Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney and they will tell you crime is not going to stop simply because of more jail space. Ultimately, the state must do a better job of rehabilitating those who are incarcerated to make them better and more productive citizens. If you someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is important to fight these charges as aggressively as possible. To learn more, contact the legal team at White & Mattern, PLLC today and schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.