OGDEN — When inmates leave jail, some make a quick U-turn back because they have no helping hands on the outside.
The Weber County Sheriff’s Office has launched a “bridging the gap” program to marshal expedited community services for inmates’ successful readjustment into society.
“There is definitely a gap,” corrections spokesman Lt. Joshua Marigoni said Friday. “We lose a lot of people when they walk out that door.”
Jobs and mental health and substance abuse services are key factors in improving chances that released inmates will become productive and avoid repeat criminal activity, Marigoni said.
“We’re getting ahead of the curve,” he said.
Sheriff Ryan Arbon and his command staff met May 31 with local state legislators, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers, vocational educators and others to brainstorm ideas for the program.
There’s no firm timetable, but Marigoni said the Sheriff’s Office invites input from anyone in the community who wants to help.
“Successful re-entry is actually positive to the community as well as the inmate,” Marigoni said. “It’s better to have a lot of people working and taking care of their families.”
Plugging the gap will include work while an inmate’s still incarcerated. Marigoni said planners envision inmates having one-on-one interviews with program coordinators, who will help create individualized programs.
“A big part of the whole transition would be a case management aspect, getting programs based on individual needs,” he said.
Success will depend on cooperation by the jail, outsider service providers and the inmates themselves.
“Somebody who likes drugs and will continue to do drugs is kind of hard to help,” he said. “But we can help somebody who wants help.”
Transportation’s also a problem for many inmates when they get out, so the Sheriff’s Office will try to arrange rides. Perhaps even Lime scooters might be stationed at the jail entrance, Marigoni said.
County jails around Utah have been struggling with rising tides of inmates who are addicted to opioids or hampered with mental health problems.
Those trends have helped contribute to a surge in jail deaths, especially in 2016, when 27 inmates died, including three in Weber County and six in the Davis County Jail.
State officials since then have been studying the causes of jail deaths and what jails are doing to treat inmates suffering drug addictions and withdrawal.
“Jails have become the holding places for substance abuse and mental health patients,” Marigoni said.
By helping inmates from falling back into problems on the outside, “maybe we can affect recidivism and crime rates will drop,” he said.
“We are just thanking the community and the supporters of this program,” he said. “We need them. There is no way the Sheriff’s Office can singlehandedly do this.”