On Thursday dozens of law enforcement officers swarmed the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City as part of a coordinated effort to disrupt the drug trade among the area’s homeless. “Operation Diversion” was a collaboration between Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City.
People caught dealing or using drugs were arrested, but instead of simply taken to a jail cell, they were taken to a temporary receiving center. The goal? Connect them with drug treatment to interrupt the cycle of incarceration and drug use that plagues this population.
You can read all about it in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News articles covering today’s operation. This is an example of the philosophy of “alternatives to incarceration,” which emphasizes treatment for people addicted to drugs so they can get better, rather than just sitting in a jail cell with no help.
One of the big challenges we are facing in this arena is a “revolving door” so to speak of people committing the same offenses over and over again, and just cycling through our criminal justice system repeatedly. Periods of homelessness, drug abuse, and incarceration can follow one after the other. We need to disrupt that cycle.
I’m pleased that the County was able to play a role supporting this operation, which included $1.2 million jointly funded with Salt Lake City to pay for drug treatment and criminal prosecutions.
I believe we can slowly chip away at this problem, and collaborative operations like these that disrupt the drug trade while connecting people with resources to help them get back on their feet are a key way to do that.