McAdams says state lawmakers pushed massive jail costs onto counties

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SALT LAKE CITY -- County leaders were invited to a budget presentation on Tuesday, but they witnessed a throw-down—with the CEO of the state's second biggest county saying the state neglected their responsibility.

Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County Mayor, said state leaders made sweeping changes to criminal law that turned non-violent felonies into misdemeanors. The reforms mean county jails will house the offenders, many of whom suffer from drug addiction and mental illness.

"Our entire criminal justice team supports these changes, and we understand why we need to move in that direction, but, make no mistake: It represents a significant unfunded mandate on us that was based on the assumption that the legislature would also act on a plan to expand Medicaid coverage," McAdams said.

The county mayor's budget plan includes building a new corrections center for non-violent offenders to receive medical and mental health preparation for life after jail.

Funding for the new facility and for increased pressure on the Sheriff and District attorney would come from continuing a levy on taxpayers that was due to end in December. The levy was created to pay for the bond that built the county jail in 1995.


  • Verner Hornung

    There are, however, good reasons why Medicaid, at least in pre-expansion years, refused to cover incarcerated persons. Such as discouraging states and localities from using their correctional facilities as mental hospitals. Has this policy changed?

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