Advocates for criminal justice reform rallied at the state capitol Tuesday, and a Republican lawmaker announced he would run a bill to bring what he called an “epic shift” in Utah’s correctional process.
Dan Davidson says he came to the Capitol to be a voice for people with mental health issues and substance use disorders. He believes treatment could have helped him avoid drug abuse and incarceration.
“I got in trouble for an empty baggy of methamphetamine, and they pulled three felonies out of that,” Davidson says. “Those felonies keep me from being able to get housing and jobs, and that’s ridiculous. It needs to be changed.”
Republican Representative Eric Hutchings of Kearns told the crowd that discussion about moving and expanding the state prison in Draper has finally made Utahns talk about criminal justice reform.
“The good news I think to take away from today is that I’m very excited to be running what I think is going to be an entirely new, epic shift in how we manage corrections and how we do this entire correctional process in the state of Utah,” Hutchings said.
He’s been working for 18 months with the state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice on a universal reform bill. It would reduce penalties on certain crimes and provide an early assessment to determine who should be incarcerated and who needs help.
Hutchings says the hard part will be getting lawmakers to approve the funding. His rough estimate is about 30 million dollars.