Crime victims would be notified upon an offender's release from, transfer to or escape from any Utah Department of Corrections facility, under a bill approved Wednesday morning by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Dixie L. Leavitt, R-Cedar City, the sponsor, said SB39 would require the notification of only those victims who request such information."They (victims) live in fear as to the possibility when that person will be released," Leavitt said.
The bill was approved by a legislative interim committee late last year but it "came to life," Leavitt said, when a Washington County Jail inmate asked him for assistance because he and members of his family had been threatened by two fellow inmates after he told authorities about the inmates' plan to hold a female jailer hostage, "do bodily harm to her and escape."
"He sent me copies of letters from these two inmates that threatened him and members of his family," Leavitt said. "This shows the fear. He's living in fear."
Leavitt said the notification system would work in concert with the Utah State Board of Pardons' parole notification efforts.
The senator said the cost of tracking and notifying victims could be accommodated within existing departmental budgets.
If the bill makes its way through the Legislature this session, Leavitt said, he would like to amend it later to include criminal witnesses.
The bill was forwarded to the Senate for further consideration.
- Jail matrons, be gone.
A bill approved Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee would clean up what one lobbyist described as "archaic" language in a state statute that dictates how county jail inmates are housed.
Speaking on behalf of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, Paul Boyden pointed out language referring to jail "matrons," which is "more than a little irritating to women who are professional corrections officers," Boyden said.
Boyden said the language has been in effect since the turn of the century and has little relevance to modern jail procedures. For example, the existing language requires the separation of pre- and post-trial inmates.
Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Lyle W. Hillyard, R-Logan, would enable sheriffs to implement modern inmate classification systems that categorize inmates by prior criminal history, institutional behavior, psychological profiles and other factors.
The new language would not enable Utah sheriffs to develop myriad classification policies because most corrections policy is controlled under federal law. "This is all controlled by federal standards, but the best thing we can do is not complicate matters any more than they already are," Boyden said.
The bill was passed favorably out of committee.