SALT LAKE COUNTY, UTAH – September 22, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) – A small portion of Salt Lake County homeowners’ property tax will now be directed toward future reforms to the county’s criminal and social justice systems.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams made the announcement along with District Attorney Sim Gill, Sheriff Jim Winder and members of the County Council. McAdams said, “The crime rate is up, the jail is full, and we need to tackle our broken criminal justice system.”
The county is not raising taxes but reinvesting money raised over the past 20 years through a 1995 jail construction bond. It will tack an additional $2 a year onto the average homeowner’s property tax bill. The original jail construction bond will actually be retired this December but the reinvestment means the county will continue to collect $9.4 million annually to be used solely for criminal justice programs.
Salt Lake County’s most recent crime statistics are “alarming” according to community leaders. In 2014, there was a 17 percent hike in the number of people booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on felony charges. At the same time, the District Attorney’s office saw a 12 percent increase in criminal cases brought before them for screening by law enforcement agencies. Sheriff Winder estimates the jail will release more than 7,700 individuals this year due to overcrowding.
Continued funding of reforms is designed to reduce incarceration for low level offenders, draw down on the number of inmates returning to jail, and promote both substance abuse and mental health treatment as alternatives to time behind bars.
McAdams says the county has a rare “opportunity to make neighborhoods safe and reduce crime by redirecting a portion of the property tax to programs that divert non-violent offenders from jails and keep the jail budget from increasing.”