Study highlights what is and isn’t working within Salt Lake County criminal justice system

Posted at 6:36 PM, Sep 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-09 20:36:46-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah – A new report is putting the Salt Lake County criminal justice system in the spotlight. The report provides leaders with a snapshot of what’s working and not working within their criminal justice system.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams sifted through the report unveiled Wednesday by the non-profit group The Council of State Governments Justice Center.

The study looked at nearly 2.5 million records provided by the county’s jail, courts and legal system. People released from the Salt Lake County Jail in August 2013 through the end of July 2014 were included in the study.

Researchers found that 1 out of 3 people on pretrial supervision and half of those on probation didn’t meet requirements once released from jail.

Other findings included: People with mental illnesses stay in jail longer and their recidivism rates are higher than people without mental illnesses. They also found there’s no system in place to track how many people released from jail are receiving treatment for behavioral health disorders.

“We do not want to incarcerate somebody for having a mental illness; we want to treat the mental illness,” McAdams said.

Mayor McAdams sides with other county leaders in placing more emphasis on treating people with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues, rather than incarcerating them.

“If you and I do nothing today, crimes going to happen, law enforcement is going to respond," said Sim Gill, Salt Lake County District Attorney. "We're going to have to lock people up, and it's business as usual."

Gill and McAdams said the report shows gaps they’ve known about for years, but the data can help them streamline processes and put money and resources in the right areas so people get the help they need.

“If we want to keep our community safe, if we want to help people pay their debt to society and get back out and start earning a paycheck and supporting their families, we need to change, we need to evolve, and the data is telling us how to do that,” McAdams said.

Salt Lake County leaders say they’re on the right path, but they have a lot of work to do. They’re expecting an influx of people to enter the jail system, as lawmakers signed off on a plan to scale back on sending people with mental illnesses and substance abuse to prison, and they anticipate some of those individuals will enter jails instead.