House Bill 126 seeks to change where paroled inmates are housed. If passed, the number of offenders being sent to halfway houses in Utah would be capped depending on the population of the community.
For example, the facilities in Salt Lake County would be reduced in capacity from 270 to 155 beds. The facilities in Weber County would be reduced from 133 to 34 beds. Seven new halfway houses would be opened, including a 17-bed facility in Cache County.
“There’s a lot of reasons we don’t want to share the burden,” said Representative Webb of North Logan. “If you just go out and ask people on the street, they’ll tell you that they’re worried about what it does to the atmosphere of this fairly safe community. Most of us say, ‘Let’s not do that if we don’t have to.’”
Bill sponsor Representative Jeremy Peterson of Weber County thinks changing the distribution of halfway houses in Utah would reduce parolee re-offense rates because offenders would gain family and community support.
“When you are paroled out and sent to a halfway house, you’ll be sent to either Salt Lake or Weber County to transition back into society. We’ve removed that person from their home location and placed them into a foreign city or foreign county to try to reestablish their life and get back on track," said Peterson.
Cache County Representatives Webb and Redd are not in favor of the current bill. Representative Potter criticized the bill.
“It’s one thing to say we need to put facilities around the state, and it’s another to fund them. The problem we had in Cache County is we didn’t have a funding line to take care of that and at this point I don’t know where the funding would come from,” Potter said.
Implementing HB 126 would cost $6 million in new facilities and $8 million in maintenance costs.
The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 5 to 4 in favor of passing the bill to the Utah House of Representatives.