Could ex-cons solve labor shortage problem?

Dec 28, 2021, 3:32 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am

A section of the Davis County Jail where inmates communicate with visitors is pictured at the facil...

FILE: A section of the Davis County Jail where inmates communicate with visitors is pictured at the facility in Farmington on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY —  Could Utah and the U.S. solve the labor shortage, and make a difference for former inmates at the same time? Utah County’s top legal officer discusses ways to make the criminal justice system work better for both victims and taxpayers.

Reserve jail for violent and dangerous criminals

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt joined Inside Sources guest host Greg Skordas to discuss why employers should consider non-violent parolees and former inmates for open jobs.

Leavitt said about 90% of the people prosecuted in court are not violent. 

“The violent and the dangerous [criminals] always need to be incarcerated as long as they’re violent or dangerous,” he said. “They’re people who have addiction problems and mental health problems. They’ve made bad choices but are not violent.”

He added jailing someone for a crime punishes society because taxpayers have to feed, house, and clothe prisoners who are doing nothing to benefit society. Leavitt said non-violent criminals need punishment to help them change their behavior but not necessarily time behind bars. 

He said in Utah County offenders are given an opportunity to pay their debt to society without going to court. 

“They’ll do community service, they’ll do education, they’ll do job training, but they won’t go to jail,” Leavitt said.

If they complete their sanction successfully, they won’t be charged with a crime, he said.

Rethinking punishment and restitution

Leavitt said on average it costs about $5 a day for pretrial supervision or services and about $75 to $80 a day to incarcerate someone.

“We can solve this problem, literally, by just rethinking how we punish,” he said.

Before a restoration order is given by a judge, a conviction must first be reached. But the defendant has spent most of his or her money on legal costs by the time a conviction is established and has no ability to recompense the victim for his or her monetary loss.

Leavitt said his criminal justice reform repays the victim first.

“What we’re doing in Utah County is this: We have this pre-filing diversion program, which simply allows people to have their punishment on the front end,” Leavitt said. “And rather than spending the process and the time either of their own money or while they’re in jail, they’re out working and able to pay back the restitution and pay back their victims.”

What’s going on with the labor shortage

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and other reasons, such as childcare, businesses are struggling to remain open from a nationwide shortage of workers. 

13 reasons that help explain the labor shortage in the US

People are also quitting their jobs in record numbers. In September, 4.4 million people left their jobs, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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Could ex-cons solve labor shortage problem?