SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The US Marshal for the State of Utah says violent criminals are not penalized by the state, and criminals know that because they are let out weeks after their arrest.
The U.S. Marshals lead a task force of agents and officers who go after the worst criminals in the state.
“Make no mistake about it, these criminals are revolving door criminals. These are not new criminals. These are people that we have seen in the criminal justice system over, and over, and over again,” says U.S. Marshal Matthew Harris. “We all know this, right, I mean law enforcement, a small percentage of criminals comment a large percentage of crimes.”
Marshal Harris says these types of criminals are released out of jail within a month or two of their arrests.
“Every detective, every cop in this state knows that the state criminal justice system is inadequate. And, what do they do? They take those cases, and they go to the U.S. Attorneys Office, and they try to get those cases prosecuted federally,” he says.
The criminals arrested are becoming even more dangerous by stealing firearms from homes and vehicles that are not secured.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of weapons we are recovering off these violent criminals,” he says.
While looking at the federal statistics in 2021, ABC4 found 33 violent criminals arrested for probation violations and 20 found in possession of a firearm.
Marshal Harris adds, “If they are violent, and they have a violent past, they commit a violent offense, that they are penalized, and currently that is not happening.”
A third of the cases his team works on are with Adult Parole and Probation.
“The burden of the criminal justice system shouldn’t be placed on the shoulders of AP&P. AP&P has to deal with the fallout of a failed criminal justice system,” says Marshal Harris. “There is no penalty, and the bad guys know that.”
And there is another issue, a lack of bed space in prisons.
“You have one of the fastest-growing states per capita, right, so if crime rates remain constant, and you don’t increase your bed spaces, you’re going to run out of bed space. That’s simple math,” he says.
Marshal Harris adds, “A lot of people say you can’t arrest your way out of this problem. No, we can’t. But what we need to do is remove those people that shouldn’t be in jail who are there for addictions and small drug uses, and ensure that violent career criminals get the maximum penalty. And we are not doing that. They are not doing that on the stateside.”
When asked if Marshal Harris was concerned an officer may lose their life dealing with these criminals he replied, “Every day!”
As lawmakers look to issue audits on AP&P, officers ABC4 spoke to say they should look at changing state laws that would keep these criminals behind bars where they belong.