Utah’s prison population is nearing its capacity of 6,700 inmates and a hoped-for release valve won’t be available, the head of the prison system warned legislators yesterday, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Tom Patterson, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections, said the ranks of the incarcerated are growing by a net of 21 inmates a month. The prison system is 71 male inmates under its operating capacity — which is 95 percent of its total number of beds — and 40 female inmates below that system’s capacity, he said.
A 300-bed center intended to house inmates who violate their parole, which was postponed last session, may now be on hold indefinitely, as the company that had been hired to build the center has told the department it can no longer construct the facility. Patterson’s department has taken steps that have kept down its incarceration rates, which typically rise during an economic downturn. “We could be in a world of hurt” otherwise, he said.