To the editor:
On March 10, the Deseret News published an editorial that the average reader might well take to be critical of all furlough programs that allow inmates limited amounts of time out of correctional institutions.The article was illustrated with two case examples of what could happen under furlough circumstances, one taken from the state of Indiana and the other, the now infamous Willie Horton case from Massachusetts.
The source for much of the information contained in the editorial was a summary of the results of a nationwide survey published in August of 1988 in a professional correctional publication.
Unfortunately, the author did not completely summarize the article, for if they had, they would have noted that of all 59 correctional systems in the United States and Canada, the state of Utah operates the most restrictive furlough program of all.
Ending the editorial with the statement that "It's time prison officials realize they're putting lives on the line every time they let violent offenders out `for good behavior,' " is a message that leaves the reader with the impression that Utah Department of Corrections does not appreciate its responsibility to protect our citizens.
This message has been recognized and addressed by Department of Corrections. We believe that a responsible furlough program that considers, but is not solely based on "good behavior," should be used when advisable and appropriate, as one of many programs to deal with the problems posed by the adult offender.
During the past four years, the Utah Department of Corrections has closely reviewed its furlough programs. As a consequence, revised guidelines and restrictions have further tightened an already limited program. These moves have been made to further ensure a greater margin of safety and protection for the citizens of the state. Furloughs are available only to those nearing their release date to facilitate a phased reintegration back into the community.
The primary mission of the Utah Department of Corrections is community protection. Like other programs such as probation, community service, or parole, a responsible furlough program has its place with other options available to provide more community protection than can be offered by simply incarcerating.
Gary W. DeLand
Department of Corrections