Violent crime has been going down in Utah
for the last three years, but the prison population -- and the prison budget
-- just keeps going up. The state legislature grudgingly appropriated
$184 million for prisons this year, $11 million less than the Correction
Department requested, and the big bill is causing the state's Sentencing
Commission to look at ways to reduce the number of state prisoners.
Drug offenders are the fastest growing
segment of the state prison population. They make up 1,280 of the
state's 5,777 prisoners as of January 1, according to the Corrections Department.
In 1990, 88 defendants went to prison for felony drug violations in Utah;
last year, Utah sent 654, including 37 sentenced to terms of up to life
for first degree drug felonies.
As the commission convened at the state
capitol last week, its members indicated that they would investigate methods
of diverting drug offenders from prison. "We will look closely at
whether they can safely be diverted," commission director Ed McConkie told
the Salt Lake Tribune.
The state spends about $23,000 per year
to house inmates. According to McConkie, the commission will examine
more inexpensive options for drug offenders, including day reporting centers,
drug courts or electronic monitoring.
With state prisons on the verge of overcrowding
-- this year's projected increase of 324 prisoners will wipe out all remaining
unoccupied beds -- Utah lawmakers are having to think twice about paying
the drug war piper.
-- END --
Issue #181, 4/13/01
Editorial: Connecting the Dots, Filling in the Background | DEA Settles Case to Keep Supersnitch Cover-Up Alive, DRCNet Files Freedom of Information Act Request for Suppressed DEA Report | Cancer Professionals Release New Pain Treatment Guidelines as NIDA Warns of Prescription Drug Addiction Danger, Patients Caught in Crossfire | Canada: Government Eases Medical Marijuana Rules | Bush's First Drug Budget: More of the Same | Higher Education Act Campaign Continues to Pick Up New Schools, Student Movement Grows | DRCNet Reaches 20,000 Subscriber Mark, Advice Sought on Possible Week Online Name Change | Movie Review: Does Blow Blow? The Banality of Dealing | Involuntary Commitment Bill Targeting Drunks and Junkies Clears Washington Legislature, Awaits Governor's Signature, "Gravely Disabled" Could Be Committed
| Utah: Prison Crunch Has Sentencing Commission Considering Alternative Sentences for Drug Offenders | Australia: Kings Cross Injecting Room Passes Legal Hurdle, Opening Soon, Cannabis Cafes to Follow? | Norway: Proposed New Regulations Will Restrict Access to Methadone and Other Opiate Maintenance Programs | Media Scan: Rolling Stone, MotherJones.com, Boston Phoenix, FeedMag.com | The Reformer's Calendar
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