A new Utah plan to treat nonviolent drug offenders instead of putting them in jail likely will get the funding it needs, reports the Provo (Ut.) Daily Herald. “There’s no such thing as a silver bullet, but (the Drug Offender Reform Act, or DORA) is a giant step toward addressing a problem that’s overwhelming our corrections system,” said Sen. Chris Buttars, sponsor of the law. Over three years, the plan will need $16.6 million, including over $14 million for treatment services. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. included the program in his proposed budget.
Buttars said the law would open up 1,600 new treatment slots in the state during the first year; he estimated that 2,000 prison and jail beds also would open up if nonviolent drug offenders were sent to treatment instead of jail. “We’re changing the course of the river here,” he said. “We’ve run down the channel we’re in for almost 100 years. The philosophy’s been ‘Let’s be tough on crime.’ I would submit to you that’s the wrong statement. The correct statement would be ‘Let’s be smart on crime.’ ” Moving people from prison and jail to treatment will cost money initially but will save money in the long run, Buttars said. It costs $28,000 to $30,000 to house a person in jail per year, but only $3,500 to provide drug treatment. “The enormous savings are staggering,” he said.