Much discussion surrounding Utah’s inmates in prisons and county jails has revolved around the growing population, how to manage it, and major structural updates that need to be made to adequately serve and provide public safety.

Often, measurable success can be hard to come by, but many programs are in place with the aim of reducing recidivism.

One of the programs that has seen success is a Weber Human Services program called Women’s Improvement Network. The three-year-old program aims to treat substance abuse patients and set them on a path that keeps them from returning to jail. A study has shown that only 12% of program graduates returned to offending within six months compared to 30% of similar female offenders.

The Standard-Examiner reported on one woman who has participated in WIN and with its support had gotten clean, held a job for more than a year and regained custody of her children — allowing her to be a mom again.

Part of treatment in WIN includes training on life skills, moral reconation therapy and sometimes antidepressant medications or other prescriptions that inhibit narcotics cravings.

Most women and men who are sentenced to a correction facility and serve time for their crimes reenter our communities at some point. Whether or not their behavior or issues leading them to criminal behavior is “corrected” is still a nationwide problem our criminal justice systems face ... and are perhaps failing when considering the record-level beds occupied in Utah.

Instead of treating those who have served time in jail as a social pariah with a scarlet letter when they rejoin a community and then damn them when they can’t succeed alone, each resident can afford to be more open-minded, kind and constructive.

For those concerned that we’re advocating that we forget or ignore the crimes committed by these individuals, we’re not. Taking responsibility is an important part. But on the other end of responsibility is the rest of society: How effective are programs or policies currently in place in our counties and cities? Do they continue to focus on punishment for past crimes or support for behavior changes that integrate them more successfully into the community?

Residents need to voice support for programs like WIN that are making noticeable differences right here in Northern Utah. When those struggling to build life after jail succeed, the entire community benefits.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!