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Victims want parole reform in Utah, experts say the fix is complicated



Court records show the suspect in the shooting of two Salt Lake County deputies had violated probation for at least the fifth time two months before Saturday’s shooting. His probation had been revoked but he was not put back in jail.

Criminal justice experts say currently, many probation and parole violators in Utah aren’t going back to jail. The violent, high-risk offenders are, but because of COVID-19 restrictions and criminal justice reform, many low-risk and misdemeanor offenders aren’t jailed.

“The criminal justice system, it needs an overhaul. Everybody knows it, said Nann Wride-Zeeman. She lost her husband, Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride in 2014.

He was shot and killed while checking on what he thought was an abandoned vehicle near Eagle Mountain. At the time of the shooting, the suspect was out on parole. Though a warrant for his arrest was issued just days before the shooting, because of parole violations.

They’re dangerous to us as the people. They’re dangerous to you and I. They shouldn’t be out,” Wride-Zeeman said.

She said probation and parole officers are stretched too thin. “How you keep track of hundreds of people, I don’t know,” she added

“I’m asking you and everyone else, what’s the alternative? We don’t have the capacity to lock everyone up. Even if you feel that is the answer, we don’t have it. And unless we’re willing to spend billions of dollars more to do it, that isn’t an answer, that doesn’t help me,” said Tom Ross. the Executive Director of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

Ross spent 34 years in law enforcement. He said Utah has the right concept of offering more treatment options for mental health and substance abuse. But said the state hasn’t struck the right balance between treatment and incarceration.

“We have to find a better balance. Because warehousing people in jails and corrections, wasn’t working for us either,” said Ross.

He said moving forward the state needs to look at which specific treatment programs are working, and fund and expand those programs.

He said in most cases, offering treatment instead of jail works. But he understands why those that are victims of violent crimes feel like that isn’t good enough.