Prison reform continues to gain momentum, this time in Utah. Last year Republican Gov. Gary Herbert asked the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to compile a list of recommendations to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Here’s some of the bigger ideas the report contained, according to St. George News:
One of the most significant changes in the proposal would be reducing simple drug possession from a third-degree felony, to a class A misdemeanor. The proposal also includes reclassifying drug dealing to a third-degree felony, as well as reworking drug-free zones to focus more on drug offenses where children are more tangentially tied to the drug exposure.Under the initiative, the restructuring of sentencing guidelines for certain lower-level crimes would mean nonviolent offenders would see two to four months off their sentences where guideline recommendations is not prison, while some class B misdemeanors would be reclassified as class C misdemeanors, and more efforts would be focused on treatment and community-based resources.
Now the Utah Department of Corrections has released a number of budget items tied to these proposed reforms, and Fox 13 Salt Lake City reports that leaders of the reform movement intend to start putting up bills that would make some of these ideas into law. Prison reform is long past due, and is an excellent occasion for both parties to come together to fix the worst excesses of the current regime. We are glad to see it gain traction in Utah.It should be noted, however, that even though the idea in theory has bipartisan appeal, it is Republicans who have often been leading the charge—and conservative evangelicals who have in part helped to fund reform efforts. This is the kind of new thinking we’d like to see the GOP do more of: not just seeking tax cuts and austerity agendas, but really thinking through smart structural reforms for failing institutions.