During our June 8th UPAN Monthly Meeting held at the Hunter Library in West Valley City, our guest speaker Miriam Greenland and her husband shared their experience with the Utah criminal justice system and the proactive steps they’ve taken to advocate reform. She also covered methods of evidence-based computerized assessments other state board of pardons are using to form objective decisions on whether to release an inmate. It weighs the risks of recidivism against the progress of an inmate’s rehabilitation in order to formulate a conclusion on whether they should be released early. This Wall Street Journal article was shared at our meeting as an illustration of this process in practice.
A Sensible Proposal for Meaningful Reform
Mrs. Greenland and her son (who is incarcerated at Gunnison Prison) are sending this information to the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). The CCJJ is charged with overseeing the implementation of HB 348 on criminal justice reform and how the Utah Board of Pardons & Parole is implementing their portion of the reforms.
Below is the proposed approach to meaningful reform, authored by Miriam’s son (whose profession is an attorney) and some other inmates with whom he is incarcerated and who have shown special interest in helping to make changes in our system.
Making a Difference
A Proposal for Meaningful Reform
- Utah Department of Corrections (UDC), the Board of Pardons & Parole (the Board) and Adult Parole and Probation (AP&P) shall implement programs to predict risk of recidivism for every individual who has not yet terminated. Such programs shall:
- Use current up-to-date evidence-based computer software programs (such as COMPAS) designed to predict recidivism.
- Use therapeutic programs to administer evidence-based testing and evaluation designed to assess a person’s risk of reoffending.
- Use any other evidence-based practices that have shown to be reliable predictors of recidivism.
- Using the above tools, the prediction risk of an individual’s recidivism shall be calculated within twelve months for every person not yet terminated and at regular intervals as follows:
- As part of a person’s Pre-Sentence report
- One year after a person’s sentence
- At least thirty days prior to any Board hearings
- At least once every five years
- Rehabilitation and therapy programs shall be made available for all crime classifications, and not just for drug or sex offenders.
- Programs shall receive funding and adjusted annually according to the number of inmates incarcerated with the crime category it is meant to treat.
- Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) 2016 funding shall be increased three-fold from its 1996 level (the last time it received a funding increase) to account for the almost three-fold increase in the sex offender prison population since that time.
- Other crime category programs, such as for financial, homicide or other crime categories currently not being treated shall be created and allocated funds on an annual basis according to the number of incarcerated persons convicted of such crimes.
- All programs shall give priority and admittance into their program for those who
- Show considerable interest in the program;
- Have been shown to be or are likely to be amenable to therapy; or
- Are closest to release
- The Board of Pardons shall consider a person’s assessed risk of recidivism and their behavior while in prison as significant factors for the determination of parole. Persons at low risk and with good behavior after having served a minimal amount of their sentence (as determined by the Board of Pardons) shall be given sentencing alternatives to incarceration (such as parole with enrollment into community therapy and programs designed to treat their specific criminal behavior). Said persons shall not be incarcerated for times that exceed the sentencing guidelines unless the Board provides in writing exceptional circumstances to justify the extension of time beyond the guidelines.
- Persons deemed low risk and paroled in this manner who subsequently violate any term of their parole shall be sanctioned according to sentencing guidelines created by the Sentencing Commission.
- Persons paroled in this manner shall be responsible to complete at their own expense community-based treatment programs and any other stipulations deemed necessary by the Board of Pardons for the effective treatment and prevention of their crime.
- Parole incentives and incarceration incentives (passed by HB 348 or any other bill) shall be made available to all inmates, and not just ones with certain crime categories.
Also below we encourage you to download a SAMPLE letter that Miriam has written to the CCJJ. She has graciously agreed to let her letter be used as an example or guide to help anyone who wants to write their own letters on this issue. She says “they can use the Making a Difference Proposal, but do not change the wording in it. And they can use my letter ans an example, but don’t copy it word for word.”
Anyone who writes CCJJ or their legislative representatives needs to include their name and address / contact information in the letter. Find out how to contact your legislator here.