The Salt Lake County jail struggles with overcrowding and high recidivism rates. A substantial percentage of those in jail have committed nonviolent crimes associated with mental health issues and substance abuse. Repeated arrests add to their criminal record but do nothing to address the underlying problems. When they leave jail without appropriate interventions, they often are re-arrested and incarcerated. Research has shown that an evidence-based assessment and referral to the appropriate type of treatment services increase the chance that they won’t re-offend.
Mayor McAdams’ team proposed using state grant funding for sheriff’s staff to conduct screenings for recidivism and behavioral health concerns in the jail. The county then combined the findings from that screening with case management by Criminal Justice Service staff to ensure the appropriate level of supervision, placement and follow up with treatment. The partnership between the Mayor, the Sheriff, the District Attorney and the County Council ensures that the right people and funding levels are aligned with a desired outcome: enhanced public safety, less jail overcrowding, reduced recidivism and access to behavioral health treatment to address the underlying cause of nonviolent crimes.