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Proposed Budget Cuts Could Release Inmates And Lead To Criminal Case Backlog

Photo of a chain link fence
Steve Gehrke of the Utah Department of Corrections
Proposed budget cuts for the Department of Corrections could include getting rid of up to 241 beds across the system and reducing inmate programs. "

A legislative subcommittee approved plans Wednesday to cut up to nearly $45 million in funding for Utah’s courts and Department of Corrections. 

Tax revenues have plummeted due to COVID-19 and state lawmakers are looking to cut up to $1.3 billion from next year’s budget to make up for it. 

For the Department of Corrections, those plans include getting rid of up to 241 beds across the system and reducing inmate programs. 

“The combination of reductions that you see there are not ideal, especially when they're taken together in terms of public safety,” said Executive Director Mike Haddon. “It means that offenders need to go back into the community. And at the same time … we’re also having to take some hits to offender treatment and programming so they’re going to be less prepared when they go out into the community.”

The court system is looking at keeping 50 positions unfilled throughout the next fiscal year, and furloughing staff one day each month.

“In the month of April, we had zero criminal trials,” said Judge Mary Noonan, the State Court Administrator. “The backlog of the work that has begun to grow and will continue to grow, in our estimation for at least the next several months, is not inconsequential.”

The Executive Appropriations Committee will decide next month which proposed cuts to accept across all agencies in order to balance next year’s budget.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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