2 corrections officials resign in wake of crimes by halfway house walkaways
Gov. Herbert announces independent review will be launched
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah Department of Corrections administrators have resigned amid criticism and calls for scrutiny after parolees who walked away from a halfway house were involved in violent crimes, including the shooting death of a police officer.
Rollin Cook, the department's executive director, announced Thursday that he "accepted the resignations" of Geri Miller-Fox, director of the division of Adult Probation and Parole, and Wendy Horlacher, regional administrator for AP&P Region 3, which includes Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties. Cook offered no additional comment about their departures.
The announcement came hours after Gov. Gary Herbert announced an independent review is underway in light of parolees who have walked away from Fortitude Treatment Center and committed crimes, pledging that any "derelict" employees will be fired.
"We know that errors have occurred. We need to find out what caused those, whether it's been ignorance or intentional. And these mistakes made by employees are inexcusable," Herbert said.
The review will be led by Kristen Cox, head of his office of management and budget, and will include an audit of the internal controls, arrest records and communications processes of local law enforcement, courts and state parole entities.
In its announcement of the resignations, the Department of Corrections touted efforts made in the last 24 hours to enhance management and supervision of offenders, specifically those who have been released into the community.
Those include new sweeps of halfway houses that sent 38 parolees back to jail or the Utah State Prison after they tested positive for drugs or were caught in other noncompliant behavior, according to the department. Sixteen others were rounded up in the community for parole violations, including many who walked away from the facilities.
Nine of those 38 parolees were arrested in a weekend sweep at the Fortitude Treatment Center in Salt Lake City, 1747 S. 900 West. Twelve of the 16 offenders had walked away from Fortitude.
The Department of Corrections has halted all placements of probation or parole violators in its treatment centers. The department says additional measures will include:
- Suspending off-site job hunts over Presidents Day weekend for parolees currently in community facilities.
- Starting Tuesday, only those with verified job appointments will be allowed to leave the centers for a maximum of four hours.
- Corrections employees will also be verifying employment and work hours for anyone currently housed in a community facility and requiring an escort for anyone going to medical appointments.
- On-site substance abuse and other programs will be increased at the facilities in order to reduce the number of people leaving for treatment.
- Community correctional center residents who are in compliance and have an approved, appropriate addresses will be transitioned to intensive supervision in the community.
In response to Thursday's resignations, James Hudspeth will leave his post as director of the department's Law Enforcement Bureau to act as interim director for Adult Probation and Parole. Deputy Corrections Director London Stromberg will lead the Law Enforcement Bureau until a new director is found.
In his remarks Thursday, Herbert also called for "a full review of all operations and procedures" at Fortitude, where over the past year, corrections officials say an average of five people walk away every week.
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