Legislature passes bill to distribute local prison parolees around Utah

Monday , March 12, 2018 - 6:49 PM

OGDEN — Despite a number of changes from its original language, a Utah bill could allow those at future legislative sessions to decide when to fund and build new halfway houses in order to distribute the population of prison parolees around the state.

If Gov. Gary Herbert signs House Bill 126, Ogden’s Northern Utah Community Correctional Center will continue to house around a third of the state prison parolees for at least the next year. The NUCCC is the only parolee facility outside of Salt Lake County. 

The state Legislature will have five years to fund the four new facilities needed to disperse the parolee population. If they do not fund the changes within that time period, the parolees will stay in the facilities currently being used. 

When the bill was first proposed, it called for the use of state funds to build new parole facilities throughout Utah. However, the bill’s creator, Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden, said funding the new facilities became an issue despite the policy’s popularity. 

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The bill was passed after having all the proposed funding stripped away. Peterson said the passage of HB 126 lays the blueprint for future legislative sessions and outlines what to do once they get around to funding the proposal. 

Peterson said the first draft of the bill saw pushback from the Utah Department of Corrections, but the points of contention were quickly resolved. One issue was the original timeframe of three years to implement the changes, which DOC officials told Peterson conflicted with the impending move of the Utah State Prison. Changing the deadline to five years alleviated that issue. 

Peterson — who announced earlier this year that he is retiring from the Legislature — said he’s happy the bill passed and he’s optimistic his colleagues will pass future legislation to make the distribution of parolees possible. Peterson said the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. David Buxton, R-Roy, or the many House co-sponsors could propose the funding bill or bills in future sessions. 

“The door is open now,” Peterson said. “We just have to walk through it.”

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.

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