SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, May 1, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced on Monday that the Salt Lake County Council has approved $700,000 in funds, available immediately, to help pay for jail space in other Utah counties to be used for local inmates.
The money is intended as a short-term solution to jail overcrowding, which is expected to increase as law officers crack down on criminal activity in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande area, which is a center for the homeless community and for the sale of illegal drugs, and other criminal activities.
“Right now, this area of our Capitol city is unsafe for families and individuals who are visiting or live there,” McAdams said Monday morning at a news conference.
“It’s also not safe for the homeless who are not part of the criminal element, but who end up in this area in search of services and to get a leg up to get their life back on track.”
Space in the county jail is limited, McAdams said, and reopening Salt Lake City’s Oxbow Jail is not an option due to the prohibitive cost of necessary renovations and hiring a staff.
The $2.8 million approved by the Utah Legislature, to be matched by Salt Lake County and pay for 300 jail beds, will become available in early July. The funding announced Monday is intended to bridge the gap so arrests intended to clean up the area can begin now, McAdams said.
Many additional steps and programs are planned to serve the homeless community on a long-term-basis, McAdams said. The pledged $700,000 is to address the issue between now and early July.
Salt Lake City Mayor and Police Chief Mike Brown released a statement thanking the Salt Lake County Council. The full text follows:
We thank Salt Lake County leaders for coming together and fulfilling their responsibility to provide adequate jail space to law enforcement in Salt Lake City and around the Valley. We’d also like to thank the State Legislature for helping to lead this conversation and providing the County with a clear path forward. Partnerships like this are critical in providing resources to those who are working to solve problems in the Rio Grande neighborhood everyday.
Our greatest thanks goes to the officers and staff of the Salt Lake City Police Department, Salt Lake City Fire Department, Public Services, and other City agencies who have been highlighting the need for jail resources for nearly a year. Over the last few months, the Mayor’s Office, Police Department, and members of the City Council have spoken with–and even toured the Rio Grande area–with legislators, County Council Members, and other elected officials to highlight the critical need for jail space.
No law enforcement agency in the State is more equipped to deal with the unique situation that exists in the Rio Grande area. Our officers want to hold accountable those who are breaking the law, and compassionately help those in need. When given the resources to do their jobs fully, they can create real change in the area.
“Salt Lake City will also continue to do its part when it comes to creating change in the Rio Grande area. As part of the Mayor’s budget recommendation, nearly $2.5 million will be prioritized for homeless services and mitigation efforts surrounding the shelter. These dollars will go to ensure those experiencing homelessness have access to the help they need, expand on successful programming in the area, and make environmental changes to help deter criminal behavior. This funding includes $685,000 to match County funds spent on Operation Diversion to keep this successful program going.
Our efforts to address these issues must continue to be collaborative and open. In the coming weeks the City and County will announce additional initiatives to amplify the work already being done by the City. When leaders from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and the State come together and take responsibility for the roles we have, we create opportunities for lasting and meaningful change.