The Utah Association of Counties Explores Solutions to Reduce Recidivism

By Will Engelhardt, Policy Analyst

Logo for EventIn January 2014, the Utah Association of Counties invited national experts to lead a training event on recidivism reduction for its members. Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) Director Michael Thompson and Jake Horowitz of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project presented on national research on and trends in recidivism reduction, tracking recidivism rates, and the role of community-based behavioral health care services in reducing recidivism. The daylong event, entitled “One and Done: Four Strategies to Reduce Recidivism in Utah’s Prison System,” brought together more than 60 representatives from Utah’s county and state governments to discuss issues related to recidivism.

The event offered an opportunity for criminal justice policymakers from around the state to connect and share insights about challenges facing counties in Utah.  Policymakers also discussed potential strategies to address these challenges at the state level using the bi-partisan, data-driven justice reinvestment approach, as well as employing a targeted, county-level research-based effort.

“This meeting was a wonderful opportunity to help our members learn more about the latest research and science on recidivism reduction and apply it to existing policies and practices in Utah’s counties and within our state agencies,” said Brent Gardner, Executive Director of the Utah Association of Counties.  “When I learned about the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) through a meeting organized by NACo (the National Association of Counties), I thought it would be a great resource to bring home to Utah.” Supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance under the Second Chance Act, the NRRC provides education, training, and technical assistance to public agencies and nonprofit organizations working on prisoner reentry.

NACo is working with the CSG Justice Center, which manages the NRRC, to help connect the country’s more than 3,000 counties to the center’s resources. “We are excited by the possibility of working with the National Reentry Resource Center and state associations of counties to bring these national resources to local governments around the country,” said Matthew D. Chase, Executive Director of NACo. “We know a number of counties have already worked closely with the CSG Justice Center to analyze data to improve local criminal justice policy and hope to build on that momentum with additional sites.”

“This event brought state and local policymakers and practitioners together to learn about research and practices that are relevant to all of us,” said Susan Burke, Director of the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services and a CSG Justice Center board member.  “It lays a strong foundation for future discussions and trainings on other topics of mutual interest.”

“It was an incredibly informative discussion that focused on how to bring promising programs and policies together into systematic approaches that can be implemented at the county-level,” said Chief Pamela Lofgreen, Jail Commander of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “Based on the discussions we had, it is clear that this event has energized the ongoing conversation for many Utah state and county leaders about how best to reduce recidivism and improve criminal justice practices.”