Pew and Utah Lead the Way on Justice Reform in the States
On Thursday, October 1, members of The Pew Charitable Trusts hosted a discussion panel, where Utah Governor Gary Herbert and United States Senator Orin Hatch spoke on how Utah’s 2015 criminal justice reforms could serve as a model throughout the country. Speaking on the panel were ALEC member and Utah state Representative Eric Hutchings, Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Executive Director Ron Gordon, and Utah Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook. Jake Horowitz, policy director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project, served as the moderator.
Although crime in Utah has decreased during the past 20 years, its prison population has grown by 18 percent from 2004 to 2013, six times faster than the national average. Unless it made changes, the state projected its prison population would grow by 2,700 inmates by 2034, costing taxpayers more than $500 million.
On March 31, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law sentencing and corrections legislation that follows research-driven policies to reform the Beehive State’s criminal justice system. This law aims at offender rehabilitation that improves public safety, invests in community-based treatment and reduces correction costs. The bill downgrades all drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors until a third conviction and establishes graduated sanctions to guide supervision officers in their response to probation and parole violations. It will eliminate almost all projected prison growth over 20 years, saving more than $500 million, and redirect nearly $14 million into evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism.
To learn more about the reforms Governor Herbert and ALEC member Representative Hutchings have accomplished, visit this site.