Lawmakers Weigh Juvenile Justice Cuts Amid Scathing Audit
This week, budget makers on Utah’s Capitol Hill will look at cutting millions of dollars from the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. It comes after a legislative audit showed division officials provided misleading information about their budget.
An appropriations subcommittee recommended the cuts last week. Lawmakers say the audit makes them concerned about how Juvenile Justice Services is spending their money. They recommend taking $14 million from the correctional facilities fund, specifically. Senator Daniel Thatcher chairs the subcommittee. He expects some portion of that to be restored before the budget is finalized.
“But we think that we’re going to need to see much more transparency and much more accountability before we can feel good about restoring any of that," Thatcher said.
While the number of juveniles served in Utah decreased 35 percent over the last six years, the division’s budget has ballooned.
The audit shows the division drove up the cost of certain programs after canceling contracts with private providers. Officials also moved money for detention centers to a new internal program, while requesting more funds from the legislature for those same detention centers.
The probe comes one year after the legislature passed sweeping juvenile justice reforms that focus on monitoring troubled kids at home instead of putting them in detention centers. A $14 million cut could put some of those reforms at risk.
The division will have a chance to plead its case before the Executive Appropriations Committee this Wednesday.