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Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis says Salt Lake County's early release program designed to ease the county's bulging jail population "has put us in a very difficult position."

The county's jail facility in the Metropolitan Hall of Justice is bulging at the seams until an expansion now planned to be open in six months is built, providing 115 extra beds.DePaulis, speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, said the program is making it difficult to jail dangerous criminals arrested by city police officers. But DePaulis wants to negotiate the issue with the county.

"I think there are ways to work together . . . to restrict the population of the jail but keep in those who are a threat," DePaulis said.

DePaulis said city prosecutors have documented several instances of the jail's releasing felons while incarcerating less dangerous misdemeanants, thus leaving little room for other dangerous criminals arrested by city police.

"I can't have my officers driving these people around in their cars," DePaulis said.

Meanwhile, County Attorney Dave Yocom said the county's early release program, implemented via a County Commission resolution in September, has been very effective in relieving overcrowded jail conditions.

Population in the women's portion of the facility has been reduced from 72 at one point in September to 40. Overall population has decreased from above 700 in September to 533 on Sept. 30.

The early release plan excludes all Class B and C misdemeanants, including shoplifters, trespasser, first-time drunken driving offenders and others from being booked into jail.

Also, the county will soon open a processing center to process those involved in minor offenses. The facility will be at the county offices.

DePaulis said, however, the processing center would not be a deterrent to offenders and that the county should instead book offenders through the jail.

"Sometimes the booking process is a very sobering experience," DePaulis said.

But Yocom said the processing center will be used only for those offenders who, for example, fail to pay a traffic ticket, thus keeping those offenders from clogging the county jail's booking system.

DePaulis said he directed City Attorney Roger Cutler to draft a letter to the county commissioners urging them to join the city in a dialogue to address the jail issues. Yocom said the county has been in constant contact with the city over the jail.