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Criminal Justice Reforms Pass House

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Brian Grimmett
Rep. Eric Hutchings presents HB348 in the House

The Utah House has passed a bill that would make sweeping reforms to the state’s criminal justice system.

Rep. Eric Hutchings’HB348 makes several changes to the way Utah’s criminal justice system handles the sentencing and parole of criminals. Hutchings says a major part of the reforms is not just simply asking if someone committed a crime, but why they committed the crime.

“If somebody broke the law because they have a serious substance abuse problem, then we need to know that because if we don’t address that substance abuse problem in the process of incarceration and correction, they’re going to come out, they’re going to go back into the community and nothing will have changed except that they will have spent time in lockup.”

On top of increasing funding for programs to help assist people with drug abuse and mental health issues, the bill also reduces the penalty for several drug related crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. Representative Kraig Powell says he has some concerns about that.

“Is it a risk that by lowering penalties, lowering classifications of offense in this bill, that we could send the wrong message to children, to youth, to potential uses of drugs that these drugs are not as dangerous as they really are?”

Powell was one of only three representatives to vote no on the bill. It will now head to the Senate for consideration. 

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