SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – The Salt Lake County Jail Resource & Reentry Program (JRRP) was announced Thursday after two years in the making. Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson says it’s the first type of program like this in the nation that has been opened within a jail facility.
“When you’re booked into jail, it’s probably the hardest day in your life. Many times it is,” said Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera. “When you get released, you may not have the same family members involved in your life or the same friends; you lose that. And as you walk out those doors, that’s one of your hardest days, too. You probably feel very defeated if there’s no resources.”
The JRRP program will give people leaving jail access to those resources and Salt Lake County officials say they hope it will reduce the recidivism rate.
“If we don’t help them, they feel lost, they go do something again and then they come right back,” says Rivera. “If it’s substance abuse disorder or mental health issues, we really need to address those as they’re walking out of the jail.”
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson says that before this, the first stop out of jail for many would be a now-closed Maverik across the street as they went to make phone calls. Now, they have a much safer way.
“We know many people went to the Maverick, many innocently, to call a family member to pick them up,” explains Wilson. “But sometimes we had situations where it was not quite so innocent and now these people with their incarceration behind them were being victimized, so there are so many reasons that this was a necessary program to implement at an important time.”
She says there was a soft opening of the program back in April and that they have already served over 650 people — and she’s already received some feedback — including a heartfelt note.
“A small index card saying, ‘Thank you, it’s amazing to have these resources’ and it was someone who had gone through the system expressing appreciation,” she said.
Resources include Medicaid enrollment, substance abuse and mental health treatment referrals, access to court information and help in looking for work.
“When people are leaving incarceration, they sometimes lost their job,” says Kele Griffone, the Division Director with the Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services. “They don’t know where to get a job. We work very closely with the Department of Workforce Services, with a team of people that understand what it’s like to have someone that’s criminally justice-involved,” she said.
Griffone also said that they have very strong partnerships with multiple mental health providers, including Odyssey House, First Step House, House of Hope and Valley Behavioral Health.
“They’re all very skilled in providing services to clients that both have mental health and substance use needs,” says Griffone. “That’s a big challenge for people in the community to find those resources.”
Griffone said they will look at metrics to track the program’s success.
“People we transport to a treatment facility, we can see how long they’ve stayed engaged in treatment. We can also look at the booking records and see if we’ve kept people out of jail longer in Utah before this program started and see if they go to their court dates and see if they’ve been re-arrested.”