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Salt Lake County Partners With White House On Criminal Justice Initiative

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams joined President Obama’s senior advisor on a media call Thursday to unveil the White House’ new initiative aimed at disrupting the cycle of incarceration.

More than 11 million people move through the country’s local jails each year with low-level offenses and only five percent are convicted and sent to prison. Valerie Jarrett is the Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She says local governments spend roughly $270 billion dollars a year on criminal justice.

“We’ve seen the extraordinary cost of running these systems,” Jarrett says. “Both on the toll it exacts on individuals, families and communities, but also the cost to the American taxpayer.”

The Data-Driven Justice Initiative works with nearly 70 communities across the country that have already begun using data-based strategies to curb jail stays and recidivism.

The Obama Administration is creating a toolkit based on the practices and polices communities like Salt Lake County are already implementing. The kit will help other communities hasten their efforts to create similar programs.  It includes links to Federal resources and potential funding.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says there are people in jail who do not need to be there.

“Let me start with people being held before trial,” McAdams says. “Before they’ve been convicted of any crime, if they’re not a risk to my community and will return to court for hearings, there’s no reason they should be in jail.”

McAdams says holding people in jail on minor violations is disruptive to communities and families.

“For many people it could mean the loss of a paycheck, a job and sometimes even losing their housing,” McAdams says.

The Salt Lake County Council approved Mayor McAdams proposal late last year to keep collecting an expiring tax levy to pay for criminal justice reforms. The council also adopted two pay-for-success programs with The Road Home shelter and First Step House to reduce recidivism. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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