Utah’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission has unveiled a package of recommendations to control prison growth, including a proposal to make the personal possession of illegal substances a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
According to the report, Utah’s prison population is projected to grow by 37% over the next two 20 years, at a cost of over half a billion dollars of taxpayer money. Among the recommendations the Commission makes in order to deal with this growth, is to defelonize the first-time personal possession of drugs.
“When an offender goes to prison because they have a drug addiction, the most likely scenario is that they are more likely to offend than they were before they went,” says Ron Gordon, Executive Director of the Commission. “That’s why we propose that wherever possible, they be treated and supervised in the community.”
All 18 recommendations given by the Commission were approved unanimously.
Governor Gary Herbert stopped short of endorsing the proposals and said he still needs time to consider them.
“I like what I hear,” says Governor Herbert, when asked his opinion on the recommendations. “I think we’re on the right road going in the right direction. So I expect this will in fact culminate in good legislation being passed in this upcoming legislative session.”