Jail Overcrowding Beginning to Concern Some Rural Counties

Dec 1, 2018, 7:26 PM | Updated: 7:37 pm

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah – Even on rainy days that aren’t quite for postcards, there’s still a certain charm to Box Elder County more people are discovering.

Like many places in Utah, the growth is noticeable.

“It’s still rural up here, but I mean, I get why they’re coming,” said Box Elder County Sheriff Kevin Potter.

However, since he is the sheriff, Potter knows there is another side to growth.

And it’s one he’s dealing with more often.

“Our problem with the jail is we are 70-80 percent full with county inmates,” he said during an interview in his office.

Even in rural areas like Box Elder, jail overcrowding is starting to be a concern.

There are 168 beds in the Box Elder County jail, but there were times this past summer where almost every bed was being used.

“This building is just barely over 20 years old, and I never thought I would see in my career that we’d be talking about the expansion already,” said Sheriff Potter.

There is room on jail property to expand, however, that’s expensive.

So, Sheriff Potter has an idea.

“I have talked to Cache County, Weber, Utah, Duchesne County, and they all have similar programs,” he said. “One of the things we talked about to maybe buy us some time is this diversion program.”

The diversion program is where non-violent inmates would be let out of jail.

They could go to work and stay home while being tracked by GPS and a team of deputies.

“They’d be monitored on a screen and if they went somewhere they weren’t supposed to, alarms would go off and we’d communicate and go get them and bring them back to jail,” said Potter. “We don’t let sex offenders out, we don’t let violent criminals out, and you have to earn, you can’t have had a bad reputation in the jail. No fights.”

Of course, Sheriff Potter understands there are some people who might not agree with letting people out of jail who were sentenced to jail.

However, he also says it’s a program to those being used in other counties.

“For the most part, these are people who are at the end of their sentence. They’re about done. They don’t want to be in trouble and they want to get back on the outside,” said Sheriff Potter. “It’s similar to our work release program. We currently have work release. These are people who go to work during the day and come back to the jail at night.”

The idea would have to be approved by Box Elder County commissioners.

One of the commissioners, Stan Summers, says he is in favor of the idea because it’ll buy the county time before having to buy an expansion.

“We’re looking for ways to be able to use other funds in other ways so we don’t have to worry about bonding and putting things together and things like that,” said Summers.

The plan could free up about 20 beds.

Even still, though, at some point new construction is going to be necessary.

“If the growth trend continues, it may only buy us 20 years or so,” said Sheriff Potter.

Especially if people keep moving to the area.

Box Elder County jail Box Elder Commissioner Stan Summers Box Elder Sheriff Kevin Potter Box Elder County Sheriff's Office
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Jail Overcrowding Beginning to Concern Some Rural Counties