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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah Corrections chief Mike Chabries wants to buy mothballed 500-bed Oxbow Jail from Salt Lake County and make it a women's prison.
"This is an opportunity. The female population is our fastest-growing population," said Chabries. "We know that a therapeutic community and treatment is going to help them. Where they are now limits somewhat our abilities to provide those programs."
In a "therapeutic community," inmates nearing parole are isolated from the larger prison population and enrolled in programs and classes to help them handle post-prison life. Those programs can include counseling on substance abuse and mental health, educational courses, job training and skill development, and life skills and parenting classes.
Men have more access to such services because the prison population is overwhelmingly male.
Only 72 of the more than 370 female inmates are in these programs, said Chris Mitchell, Department of Corrections director of program services.
The female population is growing at a rate of about 40 percent each year, she said.
Women prisoners also share a housing unit with male prisoners, which is not ideal, Mitchell said.
"We could definitely use more treatment slots and better ones," she said. "If we had a dedicated facility where there are not a lot of things going on, we could definitely improve the program."
Chabries said he has already talked to Salt Lake County about the purchase and has submitted his request to the state's Division of Facilities Construction and Management, which makes recommendations on capital expenditures to the Legislature.
The cost of purchasing Oxbow, which was closed in 2002, is undetermined, but the facility once was offered for sale to the state at $17 million. The Legislature failed to approve the purchase that time.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)