UPDATE: H.B. 290 passed both the House and the Senate unanimously! Now it's on its way to the governor to be signed into law!
Utah has the second-fastest growing prison population in the country. This growth is fueled by revocations from community supervision, which means people already on probation or parole are going to prison in high numbers. In fact, a recent report found that 53% of people entering Utah prisons in FY2020 were already on parole, and another report found that Utah spends about $75 million each year from community supervision revocations. This is a high cost for taxpayers, but an even higher cost for those needlessly sent to prison.
About 18,000 Utahns are on probation or parole. As recently as 2017, almost 80% of people entering Utah prisons were on probation or parole. And about half of those people went to prison for a "technical violation". These violations happen when a person breaks a rule of their supervision agreement but does not commit a new crime. These can be simple mistakes like missing a probation appointment or a common struggle like not getting a job. Everyday, thousands of Utahns are one simple mistake or common struggle away from being sent behind bars.
H.B. 290 will help address the rising prison population by focusing on policies and services to help Utahns successfully complete probation and parole. This bill underscores that a person's positive progress should be taken into account and that incarcerations rates from community supervision should be decreased while ensuring public safety. Importantly, H.B. 290 will help end needlessly sending people to prison for simple mistakes and common struggles.
About Smart Justice Utah
Prosecutorial and parole reform are the focus of the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice in Utah. Our goals include reducing incarceration rates by 50% and combating racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Changes must be made from point of entry with prosecutors to point of exit with the Board of Pardons and Parole to ensure fair and just outcomes for individuals and communities alike.
You can stay up-to-date on our activities by following us on Instagram or Twitter. You can get more information on the national ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice here.