County Lawyer Candidates Urge Changes to Justice Reinvestment Initiative – Cache Valley Daily
In a special session on Tuesday, members of the Cache County Council interviewed three candidates for the post of Cache County District Attorney.
CACHE COUNTY – Candidates for the Cache County District Attorney nomination all agree that Utah’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) is in dire need of tweaking.
These views were expressed by candidate lawyers Jacob Gordon, John Luthy and Dane Murray in interviews with members of Cache County Council on August 3.
Gordon and Murray are prosecutors in the Criminal Division of the County Attorneys Office and Luthy is the Deputy Chief District Attorney for the County Civil Division.
Despite their different duties, the three lawyers agreed that the state’s well-meaning JRI program did not meet its goals.
When state lawmakers passed legislation establishing the JRI in 2014, their goal was to reduce Utah’s prison population and increase treatment programs.
Supporters of the initiative argued that savings would result from moving low-level drug offenders from incarceration to community supervision. These savings could then be reallocated to drug treatment programs that rehabilitate offenders and reduce crime rates.
But recent studies have found that recidivism among drug-addicted offenders has actually increased by 8% since JRI’s implementation, and its reduced sentence guidelines have put many fake people back on the streets of Utah.
Luthy is a native of Cache Valley and a graduate of Utah State University and Brigham Young University Law School. He joined the staff of the Cache County District Attorney’s Office about two years ago.
Of the three candidates for county prosecutor, Luthy was the least critical of JRI.
He disagrees, however, with parts of JRI that allow people accused of impaired driving to be immediately released on bail. This is particularly inappropriate, Luthy added, when the DUI involves serious injury or death.
Luthy also believes JRI’s reforms should include the allocation of additional resources by the state to mental health treatment.
âDue to the shortcomings of our mental health system,â he explained, âour criminal justice system sometimes has to deal with mental health issues more than it is equipped or designed to. “
Gordon is a 12 year veteran of the County Attorney’s Office, with experience serving juvenile, adult, justice and drug court operations. He has prosecuted crimes of violence against women and provided voluntary legal advice to students at Utah State University.
“The criminal justice system is made up of people and, like people were, is inherently flawedGordon told county council members. “It means we should always strive to be better.”
But Gordon said JRI’s alleged reforms actually hampered drug rehabilitation efforts statewide.
âI agree with the emphasis on rehabilitation and counseling,â he explained. “When I was in drug court, it was the most effective tool we had to rehabilitate addicts and help them lead better lives.”
But JRI reduced the severity of the drug charges and gave offenders the option of accepting 30 days in prison rather than two years in drug court.
âDrug rehabilitation is not an overnight process and getting people to participate in drug court was really difficult after the enactment of JRI,â said Gordon.
After six years in the Cache County District Attorney’s Office, Murray is now assigned to prosecutions for violence against women, including child abuse, domestic violence and all sex crimes involving women and children.
While pursuing these cases, county prosecutors have been battling JRI reforms since their passage, Murray said, particularly those involving sentencing guidelines, liberal bail policies and lax recovery. compensation for victims.
In a recent second-degree child abuse case, for example, JRI’s sentencing matrix recommended a minimum jail term of 90 days followed by probation because the accused had no criminal history.
“It is unacceptable to me,” he stressed. “It’s something that I think we need to pressure the legislature to change. “
During Tuesday’s interview process, the candidates also discussed their views on the appropriate role of the county attorney and the future challenges the county legal office will face.
The candidate selected by Cache County Council members will serve the unexpired term of former County Attorney James Swink, which will last until December 31, 2022.
The vote to select the successful candidate will take place at the next county council meeting on August 10, and the new county prosecutor will be sworn in on August 11.