Legislative Town Hall: How is the JRI Working?

     SPEAKER2792The Justice Reinvestment Initiative  was passed by the Utah Legislature in 2015. It decreases penalties for many drug-related and non-violent crimes. In addition, it shortens sentences if those offenders complete education and treatment programs. The thinking behind this new approach is that many drug offenders may benefit more from treatment for mental illness and substance abuse  than they do from incarceration.
How is this working?
That is the topic for the Town Hall discussion from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Historic Cache County Courthouse, 199 N. Main, Logan.
Panelists are:
Darlene Wayland – JRI coordinator, Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice
Sherriff Chad Jensen – Cache County Sheriff
Kirk Lambert – Adult Probation and Parole
Shannon Demler – Public Defense Attorney – Cache County
Gary Howard – Prosecuting Attorney – Rich County
The expectation was that JRI would reduce rates of incarceration and recidivism, resulting in savings for taxpayers. Low-risk offenders would be treated in the community, freeing up jail space and getting them the treatment needed to reduce repeat offenses. The approach would also let them keep their  job, so they could earn income and pay taxes.
In Cache County, this has not worked out so well, according to Rep. Ed Redd, because the federal funding for the costs of the outpatient treatment programs did not come through (it was to be funded through Medicaid expansion, which did not pass the Utah Legislature) and county funding is not available. In addition, he notes that the decrease in probation penalties has lowered incentives for offenders to take part in successful programs like the Drug Court and/or Mental Health Court.
The Town Hall discussion is sponsored by our local Republican Legislators, Rep. Ed Redd (Logan), Sen. Lyle Hillyard (Logan), Curt Webb (Providence) and legislative candidate Val Potter (North Logan — running unopposed for House District 3).