By Ryan Morgan
SALT LAKE CITY — A Washington County lawmaker described the countless hours spent with working groups, courts and educators to prepare a bill to reform juvenile justice in Utah.
Members of the Utah House took note of the efforts made by Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, to cut costs and meet demands from courts and educators in his bill, HB239, which would favor tiered responses to correct behaviors among juvenile offenders.
“It was not something that was prepared and rubber-stamped by any means,” Snow said. “The debate was significant.”
The House voted 68-7 to approve the bill Tuesday night and send it to the Senate for its consideration.
Snow said the bill would end “business as usual” in a juvenile justice system where more than half of youth offenders removed from their homes get into trouble again within two years of their release.
He cited an average cost of $127,000 for removing a juvenile offender from a home, which he noted is 17 times the cost for probation and does little to limit recidivism.
The proposed reforms in HB239 would provide more “tools” for dealing with juvenile offenders before placing them in a detention center, Snow said.
“We should not be taking youth away from their families and away from their schools and putting them in work camps,” said House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.