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Chief, D.A. push for home visiting program to break cycle of incarceration

The Utah State Prison in Draper, Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
The Utah State Prison in Draper, Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Rather than incarcerating more people, Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank believes the key is early intervention.

"Once it turns into a law enforcement problem, then it's far too late," he said.

On Tuesday, Burbank and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill stood beside Jeff Kersh, vice president for the group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, to call on Congress to renew the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program.

The program is aimed at providing communities with funds to implement voluntary home visiting for expectant and new mothers who are considered high-risk for potentially turning to crime, such as low-income, single mothers.

"I've seen in my career many, many times where mothers do not have the capacity or the knowledge in some cases to deal with a situation; especially if they work, find themselves a single parent and have to care for their children," Burbank said.

The chief recalled a woman whom he had to deal with who turned to prostitution to earn money for her family while she left her children alone in a local motel.

Rather than invest in more jails and prisons, Burbank said investing in this program will help break the cycle of abuse and incarceration.

Burbank and Gill on Tuesday helped release a report by the Fight Crime group, "Orange is Not Your Color," that documents the successes of a home visiting program.

"Children who survive abuse or neglect continue to deal with the emotional and physical pain long after the incident. They are almost 30 percent more likely to commit a violent crime later in life, and are also statistically more likely to abuse their own children," the group said in a release.

Burbank, Gill and Kersh said programs like Salt Lake County's Nurse-Family Partnership, established in 2008, help reduce the cycle of a child growing up and becoming incarcerated like their parents.

"These programs bring trained nurses or other trained mentors into the women's homes to help them understand their children's emotional needs, make their homes safe for children, and respond appropriately to stressful parenting situations to reduce child abuse and neglect," according to the group.

Expectant mothers can sign up for the program, which is available for new mothers through their child's second birthday.


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