Support for Governor’s efforts to improve public safety

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Gov. Herbert and other top Utah elected officials  have charged the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) with developing a comprehensive set of data-driven recommendations to increase public safety, while limiting expected growth of the state’s prison budget. The commission will submit recommendations to the governor and Legislature in November for consideration in the 2015 legislative session.

“We’re calling on the foremost experts on public safety to create a new roadmap for our criminal justice system,” said Gov. Herbert. “The prison gates must be a permanent exit from the system, not just a revolving door. Just like every other area of government, we need to ensure we are getting the best possible results for each taxpayer dollar.”

In this morning’s Deseret News, Grover Norquist, is president of Americans for Tax Reform and signatory for Right on Crime, joined Derek Monson, the policy director at Sutherland Institute and signatory for Right on Crime, in supporting the effort. 

Utah’s growing prison population, which currently costs state taxpayers more than $250 million annually, is projected to add an additional 2,700 prison beds in the next two decades. If that increase would make us safer, it would be worth it.

But many of these additional beds are not for dangerous and serious offenders. In fact, Utah is sending more nonviolent offenders to prison than it did a decade ago and keeping them behind bars for longer periods of time. This includes a steep increase in female offenders as well as probationers sent to prison for “technical violations” of the terms of their supervision rather than for committing a new crime. In other words, many of those we choose to send to prison (or back to prison) are low-risk, nonviolent offenders.

This is costly and counterproductive. Research shows that low-level offenders often leave prison more dangerous than when they entered.

As conservatives, we pride ourselves on being tough on crime, but we also must be tough on criminal justice spending. The question underlying every tax dollar spent on corrections should be: Is this making the public safer?

As signatories to the national Right on Crime movement, we are conservative leaders working to apply our conservative principles to the criminal justice system. As such, we are pleased that Utah is joining other states in demanding more cost-effective approaches to public safety, and we wholeheartedly support the efforts of Utah’s leadership to create a more effective criminal justice system.

Utah has an exceptional history and tradition of industry, personal responsibility and support for essential, self-governing institutions, such as faith and the family. It is time to apply these principles to the criminal justice system. We are eager to see CCJJ’s policy recommendations in the coming months and look forward to smarter taxpayer investments, safer communities and stronger families for Utah.

You can read the full op-ed HERE.

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