Western Opinion Sampler: Thinking about prisons, from Utah to Gitmo ...
Published: June 5, 2013 11:45AM
Updated: June 5, 2013 11:45AM
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For some reason, Mountain West editorial writers are thinking a lot about police, jails, prisons and prison camps.

Prison policy: No excuse for tear gas incident — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, 06.05.13
The only conceivable defense to the charge that corrections officers at the Utah State Prison flooded the wing that houses mentally ill inmates with eye-stinging, skin-burning tear gas is that it didn’t really happen the way the ACLU of Utah says it did. If the ACLU’s version of events — outlined in a civil suit filed Monday in federal court — is even partly accurate, then there is no excuse for the actions taken in the prison’s Olympus wing on Aug. 3, 2011. And, rather than fight the charges in court, state corrections officials should waste no time in fessing up and laying down some firm policies that will prevent such an outrage from happening again. ...

Jail inmate relief could benefit all — Logan Herald Journal Editorial, 06.02.13
... Charging inmates $45 per day for their stays is quite simply a cost very few can or do ever pay back. Just last year, the county collected only $227,000 (or 9.8 percent) of the $2.6 million billed to inmates. As sheriff’s Lt. Matt Bilodeau aptly pointed out to the County Council recently, most the men and women serving time have little education and little earning potential. To saddle them with thousands of dollars in debt upon their release sets them up to fail — especially since many also face large fines, restitution payments and rehabilitation costs. ...

Prosecute police shootings — Ogden Standard-Examiner Editorial, 06.04.13
Why haven’t the officers who were involved in two local police shootings deemed unjustified been prosecuted? That is a question that merits asking. A change in review procedures is needed. ...

Prison reform: Chaffetz’ program seems sensible — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, 06.01.13
Too many Republicans in Congress have spent the years since Barack Obama was elected doing little but get in the way of productive governing. In contrast, it seems Utah’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz has spent at least the past year or two researching the best method of reforming the federal prison system. What he and his supporters, including former U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman, have come up with appears to be a sensible, compassionate but tough program for getting low-risk inmates into cheaper forms of incarceration and helping them prepare for life after prison so they are less likely to return. ...

Chaffetz seeks way to reduce federal prison sentences — Deseret News Editorial, 06.05.13
... The bill would be an important step toward introducing some sanity in the federal prison system, and its connection to Chaffetz could help it bridge divides between liberals and conservatives. We wish it would go further and eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences, but that would render it politically impassable. ...

You gotta know the territory — George Pyle | The Salt Lake Tribune, 06.02.13
... last week Chaffetz dropped by, with former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman in tow, with a detailed and documented proposal to change the way the U.S. Bureau of Prisons treats its inmates. It would use established scientific methods to determine which prisoners pose the least threat to society, and shift them to lower security, and much lower cost, options such as halfway houses, house arrest or ankle bracelets. It would save the government billions and do a better job of reintegrating to society the 99 percent of federal inmates who will eventually be released. We liked it, but we asked Chaffetz if his fellow conservatives, who say they like to cut spending but never want to look soft on crime, would go for it. He was ready for that. The idea, he said, comes from Texas. I told you he knows the territory.

Court's DNA ruling raises important questions — Des Moines Register Editorial, 06.05.13
Iowa has taken a more reasonable approach by limiting genetic tests to people convicted of crimes

Guantanamo stalemate — Denver Post Editorial, 06.05.13
Just when it seemed the country might be willing to demonstrate a fuller embrace of the rule of law by closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, House Republicans have stepped in to muddy the waters. ...