Salt Lake County seeks jail alternative

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    By KC WISE

    Salt Lake County officials are considering an alternate program for drug and alcohol abuse offenders instead of jail time.

    The program, known as the Drug Offender Reform Act, is estimated to take 300 people out of jail and into the treatment plan, said Gary Dalton, the director of the county division of criminal justice.

    It is designed to take care of the fundamental problems with the offenders and focus on long-term improvement, according to the Associated Press.

    The daily treatment would involve a strict system of group therapy, drug testing and check ups at the Day Reporting Center.

    Patrick Fleming, director of the county?s division of substance abuse services, said the community-based supervision would keep the offenders on a tight leash. This close watch would be beneficial to keeping the criminals off of drugs and alcohol for good and not repeating their crimes and being sent back to jail.

    The program would also help judges assess which offenders should be jailed and which would do better in DORA.

    Not all offenders who are sentenced to jail time would be eligible for the new program. It would only be an available alternative for those convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies or violent crimes.

    Dalton said the program should cost about $1.4 million to first get started, and total approximately $2 million. The Day Reporting Center, a key aspect of the plan, would be $1 million of that.

    Salt Lake County council members will consider the financial burden at the next midyear budget hearings.

    Officials expect the potential savings would far surpass the initial costs. Currently one day of jail incarceration is about $72, compared to the daily treatment center, which is proposed to be $29 on average.

    UAC supports SB 22 for the following reasons:

    ? Approximately 85 percent of Utah?s prison population has a drug abuse problem

    related to their criminal behavior.

    ? The Drug Offender Reform Act (DORA) would implement provisions to screen,

    assess, and treat offenders with substance abuse problems.

    ? Judges would have the choice of mandating treatment inside or outside of prison,

    freeing up more prison bed space for more dangerous criminals.

    ? The result is a focus on the cause of the crime not the crime itself.

    ? DORA builds on Utah?s success with Drug Courts. Other states which have

    implimented simular programs have reported phenominal success.

    ? The substance abuse treatment outside of prison would be administered by the local

    substance abuse agencies under the direction of county government.

    ? SB 22 has money appropriated to pay the costs of screening, assessing, and

    treatment. Without these appropriations, county government would be unable to pay

    the costs of treatment.

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