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People suspected of misdemeanor offenses in the Salt Lake Valley are less likely now to be booked into jail after their arrest.
Instead, many could be placed in a supervised release program under a plan Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder announced Thursday with a goal to reduce crowding in jails and recidivism.
In addition, once the number of inmates reaches a certain limit, the jail will stop accepting people arrested for certain types of crime.
The plan, which went into effect Tuesday, prioritizes jail space for arrestees suspected of felonies or of misdemeanors involving sexual assault or child abuse.
Now, instead of transporting everyone they arrest to jail, police officers can write a citation or take the person to a detoxification center, among other options. A new app allows the officers to document the name, date of birth and charges of everyone who is not being booked.
Of the people brought to the Salt Lake County Jail after an arrest, 22 percent are released solely due to overcrowding, Winder said.
The previous approach of relying on the jail as the primary tool to modify behavior without providing treatment or supervised release wasn't working, according to Winder. And the constant churning of prisoners was maddening, he added.
The two correctional facilities operated by the sheriff's office in South Salt Lake have a total of 2,114 beds. The maximum capacity is 1,700 prisoners because 20 percent of the beds must be open to allow flexibility in moving inmates if their security level changes or if they need to be placed in segregation.
The number of inmates being held behind bars in those facilities on Thursday was 1,694, and the total population, including those on ankle monitors or out to court, was 1,907.
Under the new plan, once the secured population, or the number of inmates assigned to a bunk, reaches 1,700, the jail will not accept anyone for confinement who is arrested for class C misdemeanors.
If the population hits 1,750, persons arrested on class B misdemeanors will not be booked into jail and at 1,800, those arrested for class A misdemeanors will not be accepted.
At 1,850, the jail will not take suspects arrested for some nonviolent third-class felonies. If the population climbs to 1,900, the jails will consider placing in alternative release programs prisoners who have served at least 60 percent of their sentences for misdemeanors.
Excluded from these caps and alternative placements are cases involving domestic violence, protective orders, DUI-related arrests, vehicular manslaughter, child abuse and any charges that would require a convicted person to register as a sex offender or kidnapping offender under state law.
The expanded supervised release program will be funded with $900,000 from the sheriff's office budget, Winder said.
In addition, he said, the state's Justice Reinvestment Initiative an effort to reduce recidivism and slow prison growth by reducing sentences for some drug crimes and diverting more offenders to community-based treatment is providing funds to Salt Lake County for homelessness services and substance abuse treatment programs.