Week ending March 15, 2015

UTAH LEGISLATURE

Prison bill has sweetener that seems tailor-made for Salt Lake City by Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune 

“Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has repeatedly told state lawmakers he doesn’t want a new prison built in his city. And yet, if the state puts it there, he would finally catch a carrot he has chased for years — a sales-tax increase that would raise tens of millions of dollars to make up for the daily influx of commuters and tourists who stress Salt Lake City’s resources.”

Full Legislature must vote on new prison site by Katie McKellar, Deseret News

“A bill requiring the full Legislature to vote on the site of a new state prison and create a new commission to oversee the move now awaits Gov. Gary Herbert’s consideration.”

Criminal justice reforms approved, drug possession to be a misdemeanor by Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune

“The Legislature approved a slate of criminal-justice reforms meant to slow the growth in the inmate population, but it punted a decision on where to build a new prison. Both political parties embraced HB348, which greatly enhances the treatment options for people who are addicted to drugs or who are mentally ill.”

House passes resolution calling for Utah workers to build new prison by Katie McKellar, Deseret News (Approved by Legislature)

“The Utah House of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday to encourage the employment of Utah workers to build the new state prison.”

Advocates urge lawmakers to improve system, not just new prison by Katie McKellar, Deseret News

“Ryan Allison was a 22-year-old inmate at the Utah State Prison who took his own life in October by diving head first into his own cell floor. … Kinikini told Allison’s story Monday as advocacy groups gathered on behalf of Utahns struggling with mental or substance abuse disorders and those who become trapped in the state’s criminal justice system.”

PRISON RELOCATION

New Utah prison-site prospects owned by sewage plant, winery family by Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune

“The latest entrants in Utah’s prison-relocation debate include a sewer-treatment plant, a family that owns a winery in California’s Sonoma Valley and a 90-year-old man who made a fortune reselling surplus government property.”

PRISON PROGRAMS

parentingclass

Teaching inmates skills to be great dads by Lois Collins, Deseret News

“Tony Duran was 17 when he became a dad, too scared to do much with his baby, who seemed so tiny. But in a recent parenting class at the Utah State Prison, he casually stroked the cheek of ‘baby’ Michael and listened attentively, unfazed when the child needed to be changed and fed and burped and soothed.”

New prison program teaches inmates to nurture children by Ali Monsen, Good4Utah.com

“Inmates at the Utah State Prison are learning to nurture children through a new parenting program.”

IN COURT

Valdes to serve two consecutive life sentences for murder by Loretta Park, Standard Examiner

“Jeremy Valdes was ordered to serve two sentences of 15 years to life, consecutively, at the Utah State Prison for his two murder convictions.”

Man who stabbed Stansbury Park High student to death sent to prison by McKenzie Romero, Deseret News

“A Texas man who stabbed a Stansbury Park High school student to death in a fight has been sentenced to up to 35 years in prison.”

Utah jury to hear evidence in 30-year-old capital murder case by Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune

“For allegedly kidnapping and killing Joyce Yost nearly 30 years ago to keep the woman from testifying against him in a rape case, Douglas Anderson Lovell has already been sentenced to death once before.”

DEATH PENALTY

Utah lawmakers vote to become only state to allow firing squad by Kelly Catalfamo and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press (in The Seattle Times)

“Lawmakers have passed a bill that would make Utah the only state to allow firing squads for carrying out a death penalty if there is a shortage of execution drugs.”

Bailiff’s widow supports Utah efforts to bring back firing squads by The Associated Press in The Salt Lake Tribune

“The widow of a bailiff who was wounded during a courthouse shooting three decades ago that led to the assailant’s being executed by gunfire says she supports Utah’s efforts to bring back the firing squad.”

OPINION

Utah’s justice-reform effort is good, conservative government by David Keene, The Salt Lake Tribune

“Like most conservatives, I believe public safety should be one of government’s top priorities. As a Right on Crime signatory, I know that it is possible to save taxpayer dollars while keeping communities safe. Fortunately, Utah’s elected leaders are taking initiative and showing other states how to cut crime rates, focus prison beds on dangerous people, hold non-violent offenders accountable in their communities and keep costs down.”

Moving an important reference point by Robert Kirby, The Salt Lake Tribune

“The Utah State Prison has been located at Point of the Mountain since before my family moved here in 1970. It was the first Utah landmark I acquired. For other transplants it was probably the Salt Lake Temple, Zion National Park, BYU, the Great Salt Lake, or the greatest snow on earth. For me, it was the prison.”

STORIES OF INTEREST

Maryland looking at prison sentencing reform by Kaustuv Basu, Herald Mail Media

“The Maryland General Assembly is moving ahead on a bill that would let the state explore prison sentencing reform and reduce recidivism among former inmates.”

Should a Criminal Record Be a Life Sentence to Poverty by Rebecca Vallas, The Nation (originally published by TalkPoverty.org)

“At a time of historic polarization in Washington, one issue has garnered strong bipartisan support: criminal justice reform. Exhibit A is the list of strange bedfellows who have recently joined forces through the “transpartisan” Coalition for Public Safety.”

L.A. County Jail launches program to keep inmates from coming back by Cindy Chang, The Los Angeles Times

“James Williams has been in and out of jail since he was 17. Now, at 27, he is hoping this stint behind bards will be his last. He is enrolled in a pilot program at Pitchess Detention Center that aimed to educate inmates in trades such as welding and dog grooming, as well as life skills such as how to deal with a supervisor at work.”

Four Misconceptions About Crime by Julia Bowling, Al Jazeera America

“For the first time in decades, the nation may be on the verge of a wide-open debate on criminal justice policy. Lawmakers in both parties have introduced bills on sentencing reform. The Smarter Sentencing Act would decrease corrections costs by reducing mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses. The Corrections Act would allow some prisoners to earn early release and reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Unfortunately, perhaps no area of public policy is more warped by misconceptions than criminal justice.”

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