Correcting the Correctional System: Criminal Justice for Utah's Future

CORRECTING THE CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM: Criminal Justice for Utah’s Future

Our correctional system is meant to correct the behavior of those who have made mistakes. Unfortunately, many times those who are released from incarceration are more hardened criminals than when they went in. Our justice system is riddled with inefficiencies and backward practices that cost the taxpayers more money and do not make our streets safer. “Correcting the Correctional System” is a Prosperity Utah initiative that aims to change that.

The Problem

Despite sweeping criminal justice reforms at the state level in 2014, little has improved in Utah’s criminal justice system. A recent state audit found that while reforms were passed by the legislature, many of the reforms were never implemented in the everyday practice of those who administer the criminal justice system. Laws were changed, but attitudes, mindsets, practices, and agency cultures were not.

 

Since 2014, repeat crimes from those previously incarcerated have increased by eight percent in Utah. Right now, we do not even have data to indicate if our publicly funded drug rehabilitation programs are failing or succeeding. This is because agencies are not tracking or reporting performance data. Utah is growing. As a state’s population grows, crime increases, so we can expect these problems to get worse.

The Solution

Fixing the criminal justice system is much more than just changing the law. We need to change the culture and attitudes of those who administer the system at the local level. Local criminal justice coordinating councils earn the buy-in of those in charge and expedite implementation, establish timelines, and hold agencies accountable. To track the progress of criminal justice reform in our state we need a statewide data-sharing ecosystem that houses all justice-related data in one place. This will allow agencies to share critical data with each other, creates a place to track performance data, eliminates data silos, and allows the public and the legislature to see how well the criminal justice system is performing.

Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils

We often speak of the criminal justice “system” as if it is one entity. In reality, it is comprised of thousands of agencies, courts, law enforcement departments, and more spread all across the country. Criminal justice is administered at the local level. To see real progress, that is where change must take place.

 

Prosperity Utah is working to help each county in Utah create its own criminal justice coordinating council for the express purpose of implementing criminal justice reforms, tracking results, and meeting deadlines for implementation at the local level. These councils will work hand-in-hand with Prosperity Utah experts to implement the policy and cultural changes needed to affect real progress in our justice system. Councils will consist of the heads of each local agency that administers a part of the criminal justice pipeline including sheriffs, police chiefs, courts, mental health agencies, and more. These members will be tasked with implementing key reforms in the day-to-day operations of their respective agencies.

 

Coordinating councils are already endorsed by the state of Utah. Now we just need to build them and Prosperity Utah is stepping up to the task

A Statewide Data Sharing Ecosystem

The recent state audit mentioned above found that Utah’s criminal justice system is not tracking performance data despite being mandated by law to do so. In many cases, agencies are simply not tracking key performance indicators, and, to quote from the audit “as a result, Utah still does not know which of the many treatment programs and intervention strategies are the most effective at reducing recidivism.” This is a glaring hole in our ability to create a data-driven, and results-oriented justice system. Right now, we don’t have any data and we don’t know what that results are!

 

Prosperity Utah is advocating for the creation of a statewide data-sharing ecosystem that will house all criminal justice data, track metrics and goals, and provide valuable insights to justice officials to improve our criminal justice system.

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