SL County Mayor wants to re-open Oxbow Jail after “Operation Rio Grande”

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams wants to re-open the shuttered Oxbow Jail, in part because of increased pressures from a crackdown on crime surrounding the downtown homeless shelters.

In his 2018 budget presentation to the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday, the mayor proposed re-opening it to free up 300 beds. In addition, the county would end contracts it has with other counties to house inmates.

The Salt Lake County Jail has faced a bed squeeze in part because of Operation Rio Grande, which has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests in a crackdown on the criminal element that preys upon people around the downtown homeless shelters.

Opening the Oxbow Jail would cost about $9 million. So far, Mayor McAdams said he plans to ask the Utah State Legislature to cover up to $3 million through the duration of “Operation Rio Grande.” The county would have to come up with funds to cover the remaining $7 million.

“We’re going to get some short-term assistance from the state to re-open the Oxbow Jail, hopefully. Then we would have to absorb that within the county budget when those state funds are no longer available,” the mayor told reporters.

The Oxbow Jail has been opened and closed repeatedly, largely due to financial issues and Mayor McAdams acknowledged the county will have to keep funding it.

In his 2018 budget proposal, the mayor pledged no new taxes. However, he said he wanted to keep funding the Equestrian Park in South Jordan and open five new libraries across Salt Lake County.