Week ending Jan. 16, 2015

IN THE NEWS

Service Helps Inmates Look Beyond Themselves by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“David joined a team at the Kane County, Utah, jail that he found surprisingly comforting — the family history indexing team. ‘Indexing brought the inmates together in teamwork — like a sporting event — and it was really good to see in a setting like this,’ the prisoner explained. “Indexing allows us to have a positive interaction with one another.'”

OPINION

For a safer society, send fewer to prison by Corrections Director Rollin Cook, Provo City Police Chief John King and Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy

“As law enforcement officials sworn to protect the public, we hope the first time we arrest someone will be the last. Unfortunately, we know that too often we will see these people back in the system. Our experience is borne out by the data: Nearly half of all people leaving prison in Utah return within three years. Our primary goal is to keep our communities safe. That’s why we believe our current system needs reform. Recidivism rates are too high and our communities suffer as a result.”

Changing the prison more important than moving it by Anna Brower, in The Salt Lake Tribune

“By now, we’ve all seen the buttons, the hand signs, the T-shirts: ‘No Prison In (Insert Your Community Here).’ The residents of South Jordan, Saratoga Springs, Salt Lake City, and other sites identified by the Prison Relocation Commission (PRC) have made their opinions clear: They don’t want the prison in Draper relocated anywhere near them. However, if residents of any municipality that ended up on the Prison Relocation Commission’s list of potential sites don’t want a prison to be built in their neighborhood, they might want to swap that “No Prison Here” T-shirt for one that declares: “Criminal Justice Reform NOW!”

Healthy Utah Plan acceptance is a public safety issue by George Chapman, Deseret News

“Healthy Utah Plan acceptance is a public safety issue. Over the last year, there has been a fight in Utah between Governor Gary Herbert and some Republican legislators about whether or not to accept the Healthy Utah Plan to help provide medical insurance and care for all Utahns under the Affordable Care Act.”

LEGISLATURE

Prison relocation, Medicaid expansion focus of Legislative Policy Summit by Max Roth, Fox 13

“The upcoming legislative session in Utah will be chock-full of big debates over decisions that may have long-lasting effects, and some of those topics were up for discussion at a policy summit.”

PRISON RELOCATION

Army blows up potential Utah prison site by Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune

“The short list of potential Utah prison sites hit like a bomb, shaking up targeted communities. Residents held hastily planned protests, mayors threatened to withhold utilities and warned of expensive environmental lawsuits. In the midst of the turmoil, state Sen. Jerry Stevenson, a co-chairman of the Prison Relocation Commission, came up with an idea. Why not build a new penitentiary at the site of the old Deseret Chemical Depot, where the military once destroyed some of the world’s most dangerous weapons?”

Local lawmakers convinced of need to relocate prison by Antone Clark, Standard Examiner

“Two Davis County lawmakers, both of whom are playing key roles in the ongoing discussion of the potential relocation of the state prison, claim the controversy surrounding new sites won’t diminish the need for the move to happen.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Texas experts say prison reform best way to control costs by Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News

“A pair of experts on prison reform from Texas made the case Thursday for efforts underway to make sweeping changes in Utah’s criminal justice system at the same time a new site is being sought for the Utah State Prison.”

State lawmaker says current system is setting offenders up to fail upon release by Glen Mills, KTVX 4 News

“Utah is in line for a major makeover of the corrections system. Not just a new home for the state prison, but a change in philosophy, thinking more in terms of rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration. Prison reform and public safety was a timely panel discussion Thursday at the Hinckley Institute of Politics.”

Massachusetts’ Evidence-Based Approach to Reducing Recidivism by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation

“In 2011, the Massachusetts Legislature established the Special Commission to Study the Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System. One of its responsibilities was to identify and implement a data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and use the savings to improve public safety outcomes and recommend other budget priorities.”

Paul, Booker will continue push for sentencing reform by Adam Beam, The Associated Press

“A pair of unlikely allies in the U.S. Senate said they will continue to push the new Republican majority to allow juveniles charged with nonviolent crimes to expunge their criminal records.”

Inmate Population Drops to Lowest Rate in Five Years in PA State Prisons by Deanna Garcia, WESA

“Citing efforts aimed at increasing efficiencies and reducing recidivism, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced a 908-person drop in the inmate population within the state prison system. ‘This is the largest one year drop in the population since 1971 and only the fourth time in the past 40 years that the DOC population has shown an annual decrease rather than an increase,’ said DOC spokeswoman Sue Bensinger.”

IN COURT

Man sentenced to jail and probation by Melinda Williams, The Davis Clipper

“A man who robbed  a Carl’s Jr., in Bountiful was sentenced to jail time and probation, instead of prison.”

Man accused of shooting trooper charged with assaulting officer by McKenzie Romero, Deseret News

“A Taylorsville man accused of firing a shot at a Utah Highway Patrol trooper to scare him now faces felony charges, including assaulting an officer.”

STORIES OF INTEREST

Eugene Woodland, whose homicide case led to changes in Utah state law, has died by Michael McFall, The Salt Lake Tribune

“A man whose homicide case changed the way Utah handles mentally ill defendants has died. Eugene N. Woodland, who nicknamed himself Captain Nemo after Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” character, died of old age Thursday at a South Ogden care center, according to the Utah Department of Corrections. He was 85.”

Restore Pell Grants for prisoners in The Huffington Post

“Last month the Department of Education clarified the eligibility rules for Federal Pell Grant funding. Although Congress barred Pell Grants in 1994 for those confined in ‘Federal or State Penal institutions,’ according to the clarification, these are distinct from ‘juvenile justice facilities’ and ‘local and county jails, penitentiaries, and correctional facilities.’ Although, this ruling will effectively increase the number of incarcerated individuals applying for and receiving Pell funding, the vast majority remain ineligible.”

In a Safer Age, U.S. Rethinks its ‘Tough on Crime’ System by Erik Eckholm, The New York Times

“Bullets were flying in the cities. Crack wars trapped people in their homes. The year was 1994, and President Bill Clinton captured the grim national mood, declaring ‘gangs and drugs have taken over our streets’ as he signed the most far-reaching crime bill in history.”

 Koch Bros to Bankroll Prison Reform by Tim Mak, The Daily Beast

“The Koch brothers are turning their attention and resources to reforming the criminal justice system. Prepare for the softer side of Charles and David Koch. The libertarian-leaning billionaires who funded an endless stream of anti-Obamacare ads against Democratic candidates in 2014 are turning their focus to a new mission: galvanizing conservatives to pass meaningful criminal justice reform.”

OPINION: Give inmates fair Net access, The Post and Courier

“The South Carolina Department of Corrections announced late last year that it will experiment with letting some inmates use special video calling kiosks to stay in touch with loved ones on the outside.”

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