Hinckley Forum Explores Topic of Prison Reform


(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)
(Photo by Dane Goodwin)


The Hinckley Institute of Politics hosted a forum on prison reform Thursday that focused on how to decrease incarceration rates.

The four guests were State Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville), State Rep. Eric Hutchings (R-Kearns), former Texas State Rep. Jerry Madden and Marc Levin, policy director at the advocacy organization Right on Crime.

Paraphrasing his own Salt Lake Tribune op-ed on prison reform, Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute, opened the panel.

“[We] lock up too many people in the U.S. and Utah,” he said.

Utah has incarcerated more than 7,000 inmates as of Dec. 2014, according to the Utah Department of Corrections. The United States has the largest prison population in the world at 1.57 million inmates, according to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Levin followed Jowers, noting that prison reform is twofold — decreasing the number of people jailed and stopping crime before it happens.

“People go to prison, obviously, because they’ve done something wrong,” Levin said.

According to a report by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Utah is expected to see a 37 percent increase in its prison population in the next 20 years, which would cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.

Members of the panel agreed on “swift and certain” punishment for probation violations and reinvesting prison funds into rehabilitation or special courts.

The potential move of the Utah State Prison from its Draper location to Salt Lake City, Tooele or Eagle Mountain prompted the panel, but Wilson, a co-chair of the Prison Relocation Committee in the Utah State Legislature, was the only one to mention the topic. The move itself is still uncertain. Although the momentum for relocation exists, the legislature has prohibited the relocation committee from most direct action on the move, including any land purchases.

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