Since 2011, the average length of a Utah state prisoner's incarceration has increased by three months. The reason is a lack of space in rehabilitation programs--especially programs for sex offenders—combined with a parole board requirement that prisoners complete a rehabilitation program before being released on parole.
"We have taken a number of parole dates away from offenders because they didn't complete treatment," admitted Utah parole board member Jesse G. Gallegos.
But treatment isn't available to many Utah prisoners because the sex offender population in the Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) has increased by 150% since the Utah Legislature last increased funding for sex offender treatment in 1996. Currently, sex offenders make up a third of the Utah state prisoner population.
"We feel empathy for the offender because clearly they want to get on with their lives and be reunited with their families, but I also understand the reality of what DOC is going through," said Gallegos.
But that reality is being forced on the DOC by the Legislature. In U ah, most prisoners are released from incarceration after they complete rehabilitation treatment. They then complete their sentences on parole. Therefore, the lack of program spaces directly lengthens their incarcerate n.
The DOC has requested an additional $30 million to expand its prison in Gunnison. It also requested that additional funding include monies for treatment program options for prisoners.
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