Sheriff Winder says solution to overcrowding at county jail is to arrest fewer people

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Overcrowding at the Salt Lake County jail has been an issue for years, according to Sheriff Jim Winder, and on Thursday he unveiled the county's plan to solve the problem: Stop arresting so many people.

Sheriff Winder said too much of his staff's time and resources are spent on low-level criminals who don't even belong in jail. He wants to free up that time for inmates who really need the attention.

"It takes a really long time to even get in jail, from being arrested to in jail, I know it takes a long time to process, but they are processing a ton of people," said former inmate Alex Stoker.

Stoker served eights months in Salt Lake County jail from 2014 to 2015. He said he had to wait weeks to receive court-ordered treatment because there were so many other inmates.

"There are people in there for like petty theft and unpaid tickets, it's like that type of stuff, I don't think they need to fill up a bed in jail for that," Stoker said.

In 2015, there were 36,000 bookings at the jail, up ten percent from 2010. Sheriff Winder said too many people are ending up in jail, rather than rehabilitation centers or mental health clinics where they really belong.

"Hundreds are deemed incompetent to stand trial, they are placed in our institutions, and there is no one to restore their competency," Winder said.

The jail has 2,114 beds. Under the new policy, passed by the Salt Lake County Council, once the number of inmates reaches 1,700, then police officers will have the option to decide who should be arrested and booked into jail and who shouldn't. This process only applies to non-violent offenders.

"We start making some case-by-case determinations, 'I need to find a way to manage this situation, hopefully without an arrest,'" Winder said. "Second of all 'If I am going to arrest you, I better be willing to go down there and articulate why I arrested you and what I'm doing.'"

Winder acknowledged there's a chance these criminals, who would have been put behind bars in the past, could go on to commit violent crimes. However, looking at the big picture, he doesn't believe it's a public safety risk.

"The question becomes: Is it any more effective to bring them in and run through some rudimentary process only to kick them out?" Winder said. "We're not trying to jeopardize public safety."

14 comments

  • David

    Good luck with that Sheriff! There is so much crime going on right now, that it’s crazy! Tell the criminals to grow up and become responsible citizens for once in their life. But until that happens, criminals will keep filling up the jail because they sure don’t belong on the streets.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    People who haven’t paid their parking tickets, speeding tickets, or child support payments don’t belong in overcrowed jails.

    • bob

      They aren’t, until they’ve proven that they will never pay otherwise. Jail is exactly where they should be.

      We need to stop incarcerating adults for lifestyle choices. Until you violate the rights of another person you have not committed a real crime.

  • George

    I’m afraid the good sheriff is not telling the truth or does not see the reality on the street. He has effectively decriminalized almost all misdemeanor crime. Ask any police officer or detective in the Salt Lake valley. Criminals to include 2nd and 3rd degree felonies have been pushed out the jail doors hours after their arrest for the past several years, only to go right back out and commit more crime. NO ONE is being kept in that jail over theft and unpaid traffic tickets alone…NO ONE! I like winder on a personal level, but you are not doing your job, sir! And the citizens of this county will continue to pay an even heavier price for your unwillingness to secure criminals.

    • bob

      Legally he can’t hold people unless he has a place to hold them. You’re a taxpayer. It’s up to you to build a bigger jail.

      • George

        Fine with that! How about the sheriff comes out and is honest about public funding being completely wasted. The politicians are now asking for $27 million dollars to throw at the homeless population. Those funds would easily more than cover an expansion of housing for criminals. maybe instead of all the amenities demanded and received by inmates, winder could learn fro Maricopa county and cut some costs there. NOT enforcing misdemeanor crime will definitely cost us a lot more in the long run. Winder is showing himself incredibly short sited and I have lost my respect for him.

      • George

        I’d also add I plan on actively campaigning against him and anyone in public capacity who supports this non-sense. We now have an entire generation of Americans who have been sheltered from consequence of their actions at home, at school, now in the streets, and certainly for politicians. This is the very reason we are sliding into decline.

  • Bob

    The key to overcrowding in jails, is for people to stop committing crime. If you break the law, you get arrested. So just stop! Idiots.

  • Whoopie-Doo

    The officers aren’t deciding who to take to jail and who not to take to jail. The jail is telling them that only Felonies along with DUI’s and domestics are the only ones that can be jail. If people would take responsibility for their actions, clean up their act and not be criminals, that would stop overcrowding.

    So… you get the weenie-wagger on the street, he won’t go to jail for it. You get the doper taking a hit of who knows what, he/she won’t go to jail. There is no deterent.

    • Badman50

      Just another sad sign of our liberal society. Everybody get to do what they want with no consequences unless you try to stop a robbery, assault or home invasion then you will be charged with a civil rights crime.

  • Nick

    Oh my friends. The sheriff is a lie. Wait till more crimes start. Police can’t do the job now How will they keep an eye on people ? They won’t be able to. It’s a smoke screen . So come to salt lake break the laws and you can keep breaking the laws. This is a gateway to more crime.

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