By Associated Press - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah leaders are eyeing reforms to a state prison system where the inmate population is growing faster than the rest of the country.

Gov. Gary Herbert and other state leaders announced Tuesday that a commission is drafting reform recommendations based on a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The action comes as the state weighs a proposal to move its prison out of the suburban city of Draper.

While Utah’s incarceration rate remains lower than the national average, the prison population has grown by 22 percent over the past decade, the Pew report found.

Those numbers continued to grow even as the inmate pool in the rest of the country declined over the past three years, the Deseret News reported (

Almost half of Utah prisoners are behind bars for parole or probation revocations. The state’s 46 percent recidivism rate is higher than the national average.

“The prison gates must be a permanent exit from the system, not just a revolving door,” Herbert said in a statement. More than half of new sentences are for nonviolent crimes like drug possession.

Reform recommendations are expected to be completed when the Utah Legislature reconvenes in early 2015. Lawmakers also are expected to reopen the discussion on moving the prison, which now sits on 700 acres in what has become a high-tech corridor south of Salt Lake City.

Legislators and the governor have signed off on the move, which proponents say could bring in an additional $1.8 billion each year by opening up the area for real estate development. Critics, however, question how much the move will cost taxpayers and how much more space is needed.

The governor called for a review of the criminal justice system in a State of the State speech. The director of the commission, Ron Gordon, said the pending move makes it an “ideal time” to discuss ways to reduce recidivism.


Information from: Deseret News,

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