The Utah Department of Corrections officially launched a new intervention program Thursday to keep female offenders out of jail.
The 60-bed residential center in West Valley City is for women who have violated their probation or parole conditions and are at risk of being returned to jail or prison. It’s named after Judith Atherton, a retired Third District Court judge and former supervisor of the district’s Mental Health Court. Utah Corrections officials said they wanted to honor Atherton, who has pushed the criminal justice system to do more to help those who have made poor choices and struggled with mental health issues. Atherton says the treatment center represents a positive change in Utah’s criminal justice system, with an emphasis on helping offenders succeed.
“I’m beyond thrilled because it’s a paradigm shift, really, in terms of how people in the criminal justice system are perceived,” Atherton says.
The new treatment center offers gender responsive programming that addresses underlying trauma and uses rehabilitation strategies tailored to a woman's needs. Amy Cabral has been at the center for a couple of weeks, and says the program has given her a safe place to work on herself.
“They genuinely care,” Cabral says. “Women, we need that.” She says she violated her parole by stealing some muffins. At the time, she says she was trying to get out of a domestic violence situation. She says she has been in and out of jail, but this place is different.
“To actually have people stand up and fight for us women to say, hey, they’re not junk, they’re just broken and need help - these officers and Judge Atherton, all them have done that for us,” Cabral says. “I’m so grateful for it, and I will never be able to thank them enough, and so what I’m going to do is thank them by being successful.”
Cabral says she hopes to one day be able to help young people involved in gangs as she once was, and to rebuild her relationship with her family and 15 year-old daughter.