SOUTH SALT LAKE — Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera wants to open up her jail to the public — at least online.
On Wednesday, Rivera was joined by Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson to unveil the Jail Dashboard Project. The dashboard is an interactive tool that allows the public to see in real time how many people are incarcerated at the jail and their demographics.
The dashboard breaks down the jail population by gender, race, age, and severity of crimes.
It also provides statistics about how many times the average inmate has been in jail, how long an inmate stays in the jail on average, and how many people are released each day due to overcrowding.
The dashboard is something the sheriff’s office has been using for about a year. But Rivera said the decision to share it with the public will help increase transparency.
“We get called all the time about who’s in our jail and why are they in there. This interactive tool is going to help the public understand more,” she said.
But Rivera also hopes the dashboard will spark public dialogue about some of the problems the jail has faced for years, such as overcrowding and being a revolving door. By studying the kinds of people who are being put in jail, Rivera hopes more alternatives to incarceration can be found.
The sheriff noted during Wednesday’s demonstration of the new system that the dashboard showed one current inmate was in jail for the 124th time.
“I think this shows what’s in our jail. We have nothing to hide here. But it also is important for the public to see it, and for us to work together with the public to try and figure out if there is a certain group of folks that continually come to jail like the one that has been booked into jail 100 times or more,” she said.
This dashboard will help us gain a better understanding of our jail population and its characteristics, as well as spark meaningful dialogue throughout our community about how we can work together as partners in a big system to improve what we see.#utpolpic.twitter.com/mSuhXRQ01x— Jenny Wilson (@JennyWilsonUT) August 14, 2019
“What are we doing to help that individual? It’s important to talk about those. They’re filling up our jail, over and over. And just think about the amount of resources it’s taking for one person to keep getting booked into our facility. And I think by letting the public know that, they will support us when we want to make decisions on alternatives to incarceration,” Rivera said.
“The more eyes on this type of problem may make people come up with better solutions.”
The jail, which is now more than 20 years old, “was not built for the population today,” Rivera said.
Wilson said the dashboard will help her office make evidence-based decisions, which are important when creating new policies and planning annual budgets.
“I can’t even begin to share as a former policymaker how helpful this is,” she said. “This is going to take us places as policymakers that we could not have imagined a few years ago.
“I’m asking all the time as a policymaker, who’s in the county jail. Well, this tool will give us the answers,” the mayor said.