One of the most important duties of the county is ensuring public safety for all our residents. That’s why criminal justice is one of my priorities as a County Council member. Adequate resources in our county jail to take dangerous criminals off the streets, as well as tools to help others who have made mistakes move toward rehabilitation and reintegration as productive members of society, are just two of the key roles of our county.
I’m also deeply committed to criminal justice reform. We’ve long known that merely locking people up doesn’t necessarily lead truly fixing the cycle of criminal behavior that is a part of life for some of our residents. This is particularly true when it comes to drug abuse. It’s important that we find ways to help people take responsibility for their actions and be held accountable, but then empower them to improve their life. The goal is for any county resident who exits our criminal justice system after paying their debt to society to never enter the system again.
That’s why I’m encouraged by the great work in the county’s Intensive Supervision Probation program. This program takes a high risk/high need population and couples their substance abuse treatment with other aggressive interventions like home visits, worksite visits, and more. The goal is to create a more powerful relationship between the case managers/officers and the participants in the program.
One way our county Criminal Justice Services and Behavioral Health Services experts measure outcomes is through “risk scores” of program graduates. This risk scores can help indicate the likelihood of someone reoffending in the future. For graduates of the Intensive Supervision Probation program (also called “ISP”), we’ve seen a 45% reduction in risk scores.
Eighty six percent of graduates are receiving a clinical assessment, and 73% are actively engaged in treatment. We’ve had over 600 referrals in the program since it started in July of 2015.
One success story involves a client who was married with two young daughters. He struggled for several years with an addiction to meth, and had several run-ins with the law. He finally hit rock bottom when his children began getting bullied because their father was a drug addict. Unless he made some drastic changes, he would risk losing his family. This client agreed to go to Volunteers of America for detox, in order to be at a place where he could enter treatment.
After more than a year at a residential treatment facility, he finally graduated from his treatment program, having beat his addiction. He reconciled with his wife and kids, got a full time job, and was able to pay for an apartment for him and his family.
These are the success stories that give me hope that we can make tangible differences in our community by empowering residents who are ready to change their lives.
We’ll continue to track the outcomes of this program and report back to the public, but I’m excited by the promising results so far. When you look at approaches like this in the context of our state and nation’s opioid crisis, these tools are particularly encouraging. In fact, over one third of all ISP participants are working on recovery from an opioid addiction.
We’ll also always be looking at innovative new approaches to drug addiction, in the broader context of reforming the criminal justice system and reducing recidivism. In the meantime, hats off to the people running our Intensive Supervision Probation program, as well as the clients who have succeeded.
Aimee Winder Newton has been serving on the Salt Lake County Council since January 2014. She is the current chair of the council. Her district encompasses Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan, and a small portion of South Salt Lake and Millcreek... [read more]