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LEAVITT UNVEILS BROAD ANTI-VIOLENCE PACKAGE

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When Gov. Mike Leavitt called lawmakers into special session in October to address the burgeoning gang problem in Utah, he did so with the intent of taking the tools of crime out of the hands of children.

When lawmakers convene next week, Leavitt wants them to pass measures getting children out of gangs - and keeping them out.On Monday, Leavitt unveiled a sweeping $42.5 million anti-violence package he says targets violence at its source: homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse and a host of other social ills.

It also calls for job training, inmate education, more prison beds and more law enforcement officers.

But the focus is prevention, Leavitt says. "Simply appropriating money and passing laws will not be the solution," he said. "We have to mobilize communities and families and neighborhoods, and much of the (package) goes toward that end."

Leavitt unveiled the package during a tour of the Utah Boys Ranch, an organization he believes to be innovative and important in solving the violence problem. "There are many elements to the solution, and not all of them can be government. The problem is much bigger than what government alone can solve," he said.

Leavitt and other state officials are concerned about calling it a "gang"' package. Noted Camille Anthony, executive director of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, the word "gang" tends to "preclude other kinds of violence that are just as devastating, though the package certainly contains elements of youth violence."

Leavitt is instead calling it a "Justice Package" - a broad-based, nontraditional approach that targets crime and violence through a network of different state agencies, including the departments of Health, Human Services, Corrections and Public Safety, as well as the state offices of Education and Higher Education.

The package calls for $12.9 million to be spent on problem prevention, $1.5 million on community crime and violence programs, and $28.2 million on enhanced correctional facilities and personnel.

"Some of the things we have targeted may seem tangential," Anthony said, "but the reality is, if we can prevent things like homelessness, we can prevent some criminal activity."

Another good example, Anthony said, is reducing inmate recidivism through better education opportunities. Leavitt's plan calls for a joint effort with the Department of Corrections, the state Office of Education and the Board of Regents to extend more education to inmates.

"It's the best tool we've got to prevent inmates from offending," Anthony said. "We joke about it, but it's true: We sentence people to literacy."

The package also includes increased funding for crime and drug prevention programs such as DARE and Officer Friendly and for additional services for runaway and homeless youths.

The package also calls for the state to continue funding programs now funded by expiring federal grants. Among those programs: the state crime laboratory in Cedar City and the attorney general's Child Abuse Prevention Unit.

"It is not a gang issue directly, but a violence issue," Anthony said. "One of the most problematic issues across the nation is young people coming into emergency rooms with wounds of violence. It has a huge impact on health across the nation."

While much of the focus of the governor's plan is on social ills that lead to violence, Leavitt is also heeding repeated pleas from corrections and justice for more correctional facilities and more parole officers and for another juvenile court judge.

The plan calls for $5 million for a new youth corrections facility, the location of which has not yet been determined, and $1.7 million for "privatized" facilities for juvenile offenders.

"Increased bed space may or may not be in a lock-down facility," Anthony said. "Other things could include community alternatives like day and night reporting centers, home detention, electronic monitoring, detention diversion programs, some of those kinds of things."

In addition, the plan calls for a total of 48 new probation and parole officers (10 were already funded by the special session). Twenty-three will be assigned to adult offenders and 25 to the juvenile court.

Funding is the biggest concern of both the Department of Corrections and the Division of Youth Corrections as officials struggle to stay up with growing populations. Youth Corrections is looking for money for more secure beds and alternatives to detention, in addition to other items.

Director of Youth Corrections Gary Dalton said that while his division isn't sponsoring legislation, it is keeping a close eye on a number of bills being presented during the session. Most of those are changes in current laws, including making any assault by an inmate in an institution a felony offense.

The Department of Corrections is backing similar legislation that would make even spitting on a peace officer in a correctional facility a felony assault, according to director Lane McCotter.

"Those are very serious offenses, and we want to get the loopholes closed," McCotter said. McCotter said there is also a move to make walking away from a halfway house a third-degree felony, as well as fine-tuning the penalties for bringing weapons onto prison property.

Dalton said Youth Corrections won't support Sen. Delpha Baird's efforts to repeal HB3, which was passed during the Legislature's special session. Among other things, that bill, which took effect Oct. 21, took away juvenile court judges' authority to commit juveniles directly to detention centers and instead gave that discretion to Youth Corrections officials.

There has been a mixed reaction among judges to HB3, ranging from more cooperation to extreme anger.

A task force charged with examining the effectiveness of the division plans to meet with Gov. Mike Leavitt next Friday to discuss whether it would be more effective and efficient to form a Youth Authority or a Department of Youth Corrections. Right now, Youth Corrections is just one aspect of the Department of Human Services.

Youth Corrections is also concerned about a bill that says the Division of Family Services would no longer care for delinquent youths. Dalton said the bill is in for an uphill battle but could send nearly 200 teenagers to Youth Corrections for care. Their crimes are usually nonviolent, and the youngsters are often abused or neglected.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

`Justice Package'

Some specifics of Gov. Mike Leavitt's "Justice Package."

- $261,000 for the Homeless Trust Fund

- $500,000 for inmate education

- $110,000 for day-care licensing

- $500,000 for children's mental-health services

- $300,000 for gang prevention and intervention programs

- $500,000 for the Children at Risk program

- $500,000 for a minority scholarship fund

- $300,000 for child abuse prosecutions

- $1 million for new probation and parole officers

- $3 million for low-income housing

- $5 million for a new youth corrections facility

- $8.2 million for Utah State Prison expansion and remodeling