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Utah Diversion Program For Low-Level Offenders Set To Begin


A Utah county intends to launch a program prioritizing rehabilitation over prison for low-level offenders, officials said.

The Salt Lake County criminal justice diversion program is expected to reduce the county prison population, The Deseret News reported Tuesday.

The program intended to prevent individuals from entering the criminal justice system is scheduled to begin Aug. 5 and be phased in over the next 12 to 18 months, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

"When we think about criminal justice reform, we think about reforming the existing system, but we have never really paid attention to the flow of people who are going into this," he said.

The program is expected to divert between 750 and 1,000 individuals per year, Gill said.

"This is really about slowing the flow of those who are actually entering into the criminal justice system," Gill said.

Diversion will be offered to those facing new charges as well as individuals already in the system. The program will intervene at four levels of the process and be based on offender risk assessments, officials said.

Individuals at all risk levels will qualify for a rehabilitative drug program involving behavioral change plans with supervised probation and drug court rather than jail. Cases would close upon successful completion of the program, officials said.

The barrier of the criminal justice system can inhibit the process of rehabilitation, said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

"None of us wants to see nonviolent offenders locked up, we want to find ways and systems for forming change," Wilson said.