Monday , January 22, 2018 - 5:30 AM1 comment
OGDEN — A state representative from Ogden is proposing a bill that would reduce the size of Weber County’s only state-run community correctional center and distribute parolees to newer, smaller facilities around the state.
Peterson said Friday the number of parolees in each county would be determined by population.
Peterson proposed a similar bill during last year’s legislative session, but it was not passed by the House. Peterson said the new version of the bill takes smaller counties out of consideration to house the community correctional centers due to their population. The new bill also gives a time frame as to when the new centers have to be built and when the parolees have to be in the new facilities.
The bill would require about $10 million in state taxpayer money and would not be paid for by the individual counties where the facilities would be built, Peterson said.
Ogden is the site of the Northern Utah Community Correctional Center, which is one of the five state-run halfway houses under the Utah Department of Corrections. The NUCCC is the only facility of its kind outside of Salt Lake County.
Mike Haddon, deputy director for the UDOC, said the number of total beds in community correctional centers is around 400 in total among the five state facilities. He said all but one — the Fortitude Treatment Center in Salt Lake City — are operating close to capacity.
While Haddon did not have an exact number of the total beds in use at the NUCCC, a Standard-Examiner report from 2017 indicated there were 154 beds in use at the Ogden facility.
If the bill would pass, it would greatly reduce the number of parolees that would be in the Ogden facility and would distribute the parolees to the new facilities.
Peterson said some of the areas that would see the new facilities would include Cache, Box Elder, Davis and Utah counties.
Rural areas like Morgan, Summit and Daggett counties would be too small to be eligible for the parolee facilities, according to the bill.
While local experts didn’t immediately dismiss the reasoning behind the bill, they were skeptical on its possible success and about how it may impact the state.
Peterson told the Standard-Examiner Friday that the smaller centers could help decrease the state’s recidivism rates.
Bruce Bayley, a criminal justice professor at Weber State University and former corrections officer, said the smaller correctional centers isn’t a “silver bullet” to lowering an inmate’s probability to re-offend.
Peterson also said the addition of facilities around the state gives parolees the opportunity to be closer to family and friends and use them for support while transitioning to life outside of prison.
Bayley said while that could be true for some parolees, the new correction centers could also allow others back into the area where they committed their crime, which might allow them to fall back into their old ways.
“The decision is ultimately up to the offender,” Bayley said.
Haddon expressed his concern with the bill as well. He said if the state doesn’t have the new facilities built before the implementation date in 2021, the state could potentially lose up to half of the available beds for parolees.
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