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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Hall: Rehabilitation is the Way Forward

Utah must urgently reform its criminal justice system.
(Courtesy of Karen Neoh through Flickr)


Utah, like many states across the nation, is grappling with the pressing issue of recidivism within its criminal justice system. The high rate of individuals returning to prison after release poses a significant challenge to both the affected individuals and society at large.

To effectively address this issue, it is crucial for policymakers and community leaders to actively examine the existing challenges within Utah’s criminal justice system and explore avenues for reform. We must change the limited access to rehabilitation programs, inadequate healthcare and other barriers that hinder successful reintegration into society.

By understanding these obstacles and proposing comprehensive solutions, Utah can create a more rehabilitative and effective criminal justice system.

Limited Access to Rehabilitation Programs

One of the primary factors contributing to Utah’s high recidivism rate is the limited access to rehabilitation programs for incarcerated individuals. Research consistently shows that participation in education and vocational training programs significantly reduces the likelihood of reoffending. However, many inmates in Utah lack access to such programs, hindering their ability to acquire essential skills for a successful reintegration into society.

Investing in and expanding these programs within prisons is crucial to breaking the recidivism cycle. By providing inmates with educational opportunities and vocational training, Utah can empower them to build a better future upon release.

Inadequate Healthcare

Inadequate healthcare within the prison system creates another major challenge exacerbating the issue of recidivism. Many incarcerated individuals suffer from substance abuse disorders and chronic illnesses. Without proper healthcare, these conditions often go untreated, leading to a cycle of reoffending driven by untreated substance abuse relapse.

Utah must prioritize comprehensive healthcare services within its correctional facilities, ensuring that inmates receive the necessary treatment and support to address their health issues. By treating the root causes of criminal behavior, the state can enhance the chances of successful reintegration and reduce the likelihood of individuals returning to the criminal justice system.

A critical aspect of improving healthcare within the criminal justice system involves addressing the mental health needs of defendants within the system. Many individuals entering the criminal justice system struggle with mental health issues, and without proper identification and support, they face an elevated risk of recidivism.

Utah must invest in training law enforcement officers, legal professionals and correctional staff to recognize signs of mental illness and provide appropriate interventions. Additionally, diverting mentally ill individuals away from the traditional criminal justice system and into mental health treatment programs can prevent them from entering a cycle of incarceration. However, we must ensure that such programs exist to empower and protect incarcerated people, not to further harm them.

Wellpath, a prominent correctional facility healthcare company, has been under scrutiny for allegations of prisoner mistreatment. Allegations include instances of neglect, lack of timely medical attention and contributing to an environment that compromises the well-being of incarcerated individuals.

The rights of incarcerated individuals to receive adequate healthcare are protected by law, and any violation of these rights should raise concerns about the treatment of prison populations. States and jurisdictions must reassess their contracts with healthcare providers, ensuring that the well-being of incarcerated individuals remains a top priority.

Utah, in considering reforms within its criminal justice system, should closely examine the criticism faced by Wellpath. By doing so, criminal justice reform can start with establishing oversight mechanisms, improving transparency and holding healthcare providers accountable for the well-being of inmates. While the bare minimum, these are essential steps for building a more humane and effective correctional healthcare system.

Employment Opportunities

Another important factor contributing to the cycle of recidivism is the lack of viable employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record. Many released inmates struggle to find stable employment, leading to financial instability and increased susceptibility to reoffending.

Utah can address this issue by implementing more robust reentry support programs that focus on vocational training, job placement services and partnerships with employers willing to hire individuals with criminal backgrounds. By facilitating the transition from incarceration to gaining employment, the state not only reduces the economic strain on former inmates but also enhances their sense of purpose and self-worth.

Reentry support programs can offer ongoing guidance and mentorship, helping individuals navigate the challenges of rebuilding their lives and maintaining lawful, productive lifestyles. Investing in comprehensive reentry initiatives is a proactive step toward breaking the cycle of recidivism and fostering a more inclusive and rehabilitative criminal justice system in Utah.

Community-Based Alternatives to Incarceration

To further enhance Utah’s criminal justice system, the state should explore and invest in community-based alternatives to incarceration. Traditional imprisonment often isolates individuals from their communities, hindering their ability to reintegrate successfully.

Community-based alternatives, such as probation, parole and supervised release programs, offer a more localized and supportive approach. By allowing individuals to remain connected to their communities under supervision, these alternatives can facilitate a smoother transition back into society.

Moreover, such programs can be tailored to address specific needs, such as substance abuse treatment or mental health counseling. Emphasizing community-based solutions not only reduces the strain on overcrowded prisons but also fosters a sense of responsibility within the community to actively participate in the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals.

Through these comprehensive reforms, Utah can break the cycle of recidivism, fostering an environment that empowers individuals to reintegrate successfully into society and lead fulfilling, crime-free lives.


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About the Contributor
Lexi Hall, Opinion Writer
(she/her) Lexi is double majoring in English and Communications with an emphasis in Journalism at the University of Utah. She is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and came to Salt Lake City because she loves the outdoors. Lexi spends most of her time reading books and going to concerts with friends. She hopes one day to become an English Professor and a Journalist.

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