By Adam Droge
SALT LAKE CITY – A bill hoping to better manage the state prison population by increasing the number of beds available for use in county jails passed the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday, Feb 18.
Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, said, “The reason I come forward to you today … is to help our prisons [cope] with the increased population, and to also help our county jails in reference to housing and filling the beds that they have in the county jail.”
Greenwood said that the prison population has been increasing by 144 inmates per year. HJR17 will increase the bed count in prisons in eight different counties.
The bill also notes that the state daily incarceration rate that the department will pay the county will stay $46.85 per day. The reason for not increasing the funds is that no new beds are being built, but rather prisoners may be moved to use currently empty beds.
Rollin Cook, executive director of Utah Department of Corrections, said, “We need these beds to be able to move forward over the next two to three years just to be able to manage our current population, regardless of that decision that’s made.”
Cook said that they currently aren’t out of beds, but they are trying to stay ahead of the curve, so they can manage the population while they work on the criminal justice reform over the next few years.
“Utah should be very proud. It has a very low incarceration rate. We’ve done a great job over the years of managing our population but we can do a much better job,” Cook added.
The bill was passed by the committee unanimously and will now move to full House for further consideration.