Sheriffs Angry at Inmate Transfers

Sheriffs Angry at Inmate Transfers

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Sheriffs say the state's corrections chief overreacted to a series of escapes by pulling 300 felons from county jails.

Counties get paid for taking state inmates and don't want to lose the money. Now they're turning to Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert for relief to overturn Utah Corrections Department chief Tom Patterson's decision to keep serious offenders out of county jails.

"They could be moved back," Herbert said after a meeting Thursday with sheriffs from across the state.

Patterson said he needed to assure the public's safety.

"Yes, it could be overkill in some areas," Patterson said. "But really what we're trying to do is cinch up, and it's going to take some tweaking."

Sheriffs criticized the rule as shortsighted, saying factors such as a prisoner's behavior behind bars and amount of time left to serve are equally important in assessing risk.

"A lot of first-degree felons are not a threat," said Kirk Smith, Washington County sheriff.

Davis County Sheriff Brad Cox characterized the sheriffs' mood Thursday as "cooperative but guarded."

Sheriffs pointed to Patterson's lack of corrections experience as one source of the strife.

"He's been put into a really hard position, really not knowing a whole lot about corrections and trying to get up to speed," said Smith. "You throw in a couple of escapes, and it puts a lot of pressure on him."

Herbert said tensions calmed following his meeting, and he planned to get sheriffs back together with Patterson next month.

"I said, 'Hey, nobody should take offense; we're all in this together,"' Herbert said. "We're tying to make sure the streets are kept safe from the bad people. This is not us versus them, this is not good guys versus bad guys."


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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