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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Criminal Justice Funds Allocated by Council

During our budget discussions, the Salt Lake County Council passed a tax extension for criminal justice reform. This $9.4 million from the expired jail bond had $3.4 million appropriated during the budget to fund part of the sheriff and DA's budgets. The council wanted to allocate the remaining $6 million for criminal justice reform.

Council Member Jenny Wilson and I organized a two-day retreat on January 12 and 13. We brought together the Council, Mayor, DA, judges, mental and behavioral health specialists, and the Sheriff for a roundtable discussion to align our priorities. Throughout the retreat we agreed that we needed to focus on evidence-based outcomes for all criminal justice programs. We also know that taxpayer resources are scarce and we needed to make sure that we got a return on our investment by focusing on the root causes of recidivism. After a lot of discussion, we came to a general consensus of how to prioritize some of these criminal justice funds:

$100,000 to audit, evaluate and develop options to oversee Indigent Defense contracts

$200,000 for the Community Corrections Center and Receiving Center planning process

In two weeks we will hear from our sheriff and behavioral health director and look at which programs the remaining $2.7 million should go to. I've been an advocate of more detox beds, mental health and substance abuse programs in conjunction with probation, and data to make sure the money we put into programs is making a difference.

This will be an annual process where we identify our criminal justice priorities and allocate funds each year for specific programs and processes to help with our major jail overcrowding problem and high rate of recidivism. I am grateful we have such great criminal justice experts in our county to help us look ahead and improve in this arena.

Here is the Salt Lake Tribune article on this issue.

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