SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is joining 45 prosecutors around the country calling for probation and parole reform.
Under the current system Gill believes agents can get overwhelmed and offenders can unnecessarily go back to prison.
In a statement Gill said some of the reforms include granting early discharge for those following the program. Only use probation and parole for those at risk of re-offending, and curtailing supervision fees.
“We are not maximizing this intended tool for what it’s intended purpose is,” said Gill.
While parole agents have been granted more leeway when it comes to sending people back to jail. Gill worries it’s unnecessarily putting people back behind bars.
“This has become a pipeline which is feeding into our mass incarceration.”
James Hudspeth is the Director of Utah Adult Probation and Parole. He agrees some reforms are necessary. He notes many agents have large caseloads, and can’t always give lower risk offenders the attention they need.
The Director said always taking a new look at the system is important because so many people go through it.
“95 percent of the offenders currently incarcerated will be released into the public,” said Hudspeth. “What are we doing to prepare those offenders for release?”
Both Gill and Hudspeth said reforms aren’t about taking it easy on offenders, or giving lighter punishments. It’s about using the resources where they can best be utilized.
“We do believe in sanctions, but we also believe in incentives,” said Hudspeth. “If you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing on probation or parole it needs to be incentivized.”
Gill said one of the main focuses of his push is to get the attention of policy makers to the benefit of funding treatment. He notes Operation Rio Grande has already showing how a focus on treatment can keep people out of prison.
“If we can’t give them the treatment that they need and then we are sort of cycling them through this probation and parole model.” said Gill. “Without that support then we are just simply setting them up to fail.”
The Utah Legislature has passed several justice reform bills over the last couple of years.