The Utah prison system is near capacity, with only 199 beds spaces left.
The past 18 months have seen an increase of 362 in- mates entering the prison system, bringing the overall prison population to 6,766. Director Haddon shared his concerns about the number now in custody at a hearing of the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
The state’s maximum prison capacity is 7,000; Haddon’s department is exploring both short and long term options, by prioritizing moderate and high risk offenders to cut back on the caseloads of probation and parole agents.
A new prison that was already under construction and was originally planned to house 4,000 inmates was scaled back.
State officials announced in April that the previous capacity will be reduced to 3,600 to offset $130 million in construction cost overruns.
The state is exploring other options including reopening a section of a previously closed prison at Draper, housing inmates in the county jail system, and putting more bunks in dormitories.
Director Haddon’s department is looking at the causative factors driving the prison population increase, but he is not ready to draw any conclusions from the data.
Lawmakers listened but, so far, have taken no action. Rep. Eric Hutchings (R-Kearns) believes the pressure on the state’s prison system will continue, saying, “To add a million people to the state and not give you any more beds is just kind of reckless.”