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Prison Hits Record Population of 6,001

Prison Hits Record Population of 6,001

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's prison population reached an all-time high of 6,001 inmates this week.

State fiscal analyst Bill Greer described the record set on Monday as a "milestone but not a crisis."

If the prison were to have more than 6,008 inmates for 45 days, it would have to make early releases.

But Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said prison officials will do whatever they have to to prevent that.

"No matter what it takes, we will rent county jail beds or open the Lone Peak building, even if we don't have staff for it, if we need to," Ford said.

Corrections officials have talked about crowding problems for more than a year. In February, the parole board gave early releases to more than a dozen women inmates to ease crowding.

Maximum inmate capacity at the Draper prison site is 3,615 and the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison can house 1,125, Ford said.

Corrections deals with the overflow through contracts with county jails, where an all-time high 1,300 inmates are housed now.

Scott Carver, acting Corrections executive director, said the Lone Peak facility, which is undergoing a renovation, can house up to 300 inmates. It is expected to ready in January.

"As soon as we get our modifications and security upgrades done, we'll be moving," Carver said. "We have contingency plans. We are using money from last year's jail contracting budget to buy up the excess county jail beds."

State budget cutbacks after $23 million from Corrections over the past three years.

Carver said legislators will be asked for $15 million to build and more housing at the Gunnison facility. Additional money would be needed in a later budget to staff those units.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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