Mike Haddon, interim Utah Corrections Department director since mid-May, has been appointed as director, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday.
Haddon has been a deputy director for 11 years, including five years under Rollin Cook, who announced his resignation in April and stepped down May 14. Since then, Haddon has been running the department.
As director, the 49-year-old Haddon oversees about 2,200 employees, 6,500 inmates and 17,500 individuals on probation or parole.
“The Utah Department of Corrections works hard each day to keep the public safe and help offenders successfully reintegrate back into society,” Haddon said in a prepared statement. “Much of this success can be credited to our talented and dedicated staff, and I am honored to serve alongside them.
“Utah has a lot of critically important work ahead related to corrections, and I am confident that, together, we will move the work forward with positive results.”
The biggest challenge on the horizon is the completion of and move to the new prison in Salt Lake City west of the airport. The old prison at Draper will be closed.
The new prison, last projected to cost $692 million amid continually rising estimates (it originally was put at $550 million), will house 3,600 inmates.
Haddon says he has a “hands-on” approach to the move. He has a transition team monitoring and providing input at the construction site and travels there every other week to stay on top of the progress. He says projections look good that the facility will be completed in spring 2021 and the move will occur that fall, he said.
He wouldn’t describe how the move will be accomplished — incrementally or in one big push — citing security concerns.
“We will have a plan and we will make sure the public is safe when we make that move,” he said in an interview with The Tribune.
With the physical shift, Corrections also will change how it oversees and interacts with inmates, adopting what is called direct supervision, where officers are stationed inside inmate housing units instead of in protected control rooms.
“Evidence shows that violence goes down, property damage goes down. There are a lot beneficial impacts when you move to direct supervision just because the officers develop more of a relationship and understanding of what the inmates on their units are experiencing,” Haddon told the newspaper.
He couldn’t answer whether that will change the officer-to-inmate ratios, but said the department likely will bring in consultants before the move to figure out the staffing requirements.
Like virtually every law-enforcement agency in the country, Utah Corrections has a problem recruiting and retaining officers.
The Legislature has acted to increase salaries recently, putting in place a pay plan that guarantees annual increases for officers. State corrections officers start at more than $19 per hour, Haddon said. “But with the economy as strong as it is, we still have a lot of vacancies. And I know local law enforcement is struggling with that, too.”
Before his appointment as Corrections deputy director in 2007, Haddon worked as research director for the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. He had been with CCJJ ever since interning there out of college.
The governor, in announcing the appointment, pointed to Haddon’s experience in criminal justice.
“He understands that we cannot simply warehouse inmates. Instead, we need to focus on rehabilitating people and helping them lead better lives and prepare to be productive citizens,” Herbert said in a statement.