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Salt Lake County's Jail

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If going to jail is intended as a deterrent to crime, as well as means to keep dangerous people behind bars, some criminals in Salt Lake County are getting off easy, and that's worrisome for the general public.

With more and more frequency dangerous criminals are being released from the county's jail because of a shortage of available beds. Actually 135 beds at the facility aren't being used because the Salt Lake County Council last year ordered one of the jail's housing units closed to save money. And don't forget the nearby Oxbow Jail with its 500 beds is also in mothballs, mainly to save money.

County Council members, it seems, are determined to pursue an "alternatives to incarceration" program that is intended to remove nonviolent offenders from the jail and put them into treatment programs instead.

That's probably not a bad idea. Treatment can cost a lot less than incarceration and can lead to improved lives. However, if blind commitment to a pet program is regularly resulting in early releases for criminals - some considered dangerous - Council members need to reevaluate their priorities.

Furthermore, they ought to provide funding for an effective and efficient computerized system for keeping track of who is being jailed and who is being released, something that currently, astonishingly, is lacking.

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