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It is good to hear that Utah Department of Corrections officials are fully committed to better managing the way state prison inmates are handled in the various county jails throughout Utah.
They need to!
A scathing audit prepared for Utah legislators says the department's lack of adequate oversight resulted in a number of preventable jail escapes in recent years. The audit makes it clear that the state hasn't been properly managing its prison-sharing contracts with the county jails.
The state uses county jails to deal with overcrowding at the Gunnison prison and at the Point of the Mountain. The state pays the counties, per contract, to house about 20-percent of all inmates in state custody. The system has allowed counties to build larger, more modern jails, while saving the state the capital cost of expanding the prisons.
For years, though, corrections officials turned a blind eye to problems in the counties. According to the audit, "The department was aware of security and operational concerns but then did not ensure that improvements were made."
Corrections officials recently assured lawmakers that changes are already being made to better manage the system. As we said, that's good to hear. Now follow-up audits will be needed to make sure it is being done.