SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, March 20, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Friday that “low-level, nonviolent” prisoners are being released in order to free up jail beds in the interest of public safety.
Gill explained that the decision was made because the coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on everyone, and law enforcement, the courts, and jails have to keep working.
“We want to make sure a jail bed is available for violent offenders,” he said.
Gill said he reached out to Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, and she was on board with the idea.
“We looked for those in jail on technical violations, failure to appear…” Gill said, adding that Rivera has taken measures to be sure prisoners who were due for release soon are also in the mix.
The first group of prisoners being released comprises about 90 females, he said. Male nonviolent offenders will be released next week. Ultimately, officials are expecting to release 150-200 prisoners.
“This will, hopefully, give us a couple of hundred bed buffer,” Gill said.
A benefit of having beds available is that Sheriff Rivera can arrange to segregate prisoners into separate areas if a prisoner tests positive for the coronavirus.
“We have to prepare for the next four, eight or 12 weeks at a minimum,” Gill said.
“We’re doing this because of public safety. Regardless of what happens with the pandemic, there will be crime… we don’t want to compromise our public safety.”