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Opinion: Incarcerated individuals may one day be your neighbors. We should help them thrive

Utah just passed a bill that can kickstart our rehabilitation of incarcerated persons. What’s next?

SHARE Opinion: Incarcerated individuals may one day be your neighbors. We should help them thrive
A one-man cell in the men’s maximum security building at the new Utah State Prison in Salt Lake City.

A one-person cell in the men’s maximum security building at the new Utah State Prison in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Formerly incarcerated individuals become our neighbors when they leave jail or prison. They reenter our society, often times without learning the necessary skills to thrive and become a productive member of our society.

The Utah Prison System has taken a step in the right direction with the passing of HB348. This bill set out to address the problems of mental health, substance use and rehabilitation instead of punishment. However, the programs that promote those changes are not widespread throughout the Utah Prison System.

It is difficult for meaningful change to occur when the offender experiences a widely varying environment depending on what jail or prison they go to. Mental health, vocational, educational and rehabilitation and treatment programs need to become a standard across the Utah criminal justice system. An offender should be able to better themselves in some way no matter the facility that they end up in. With this focus, I believe that this will help tremendously with recidivism in the state of Utah.

Austin McDonald

West Jordan