2021 Bills

HB 290: Reducing Incarceration for Technical Violations

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker. Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it aligns with our principles and should therefore be passed into law.

Rather than locking individuals behind bars for every criminal offense, Utah’s criminal justice system has embraced instead a nationwide movement toward utilizing community supervision programs like probation and parole. If you commit a low-level offense in Utah, chances are you will get a probation sentence with stipulations such as meeting with a probation officer, drug and alcohol testing, ankle monitoring, night-time curfew, education modules of some kind, among other rules and regulations. How strictly these rules will be enforced may vary depending on the probation officer an individual is assigned.

When an individual misses a probation meeting with their officer, they could get a verbal warning, or they could be sentenced to jail. But should the state really be sending individuals to jail for a technical violation that wasn’t even as serious as the initial crime they committed? Probably not. But, current law allows incarceration for technical violations like missing curfew or a meeting or failing a drug test.

We believe jail should be reserved for people who commit actual crimes, not technical violations. Slip-ups happen in everyday life, and this isn’t a good reason to revoke a person’s probation or parole or send them to incarceration.

Representative Keven Stratton is sponsoring House Bill 290 in order to stop the state from revoking a person’s parole or probation or incarcerating them for violating conditions of their community supervision program. If the individual commits a misdemeanor or felony, however, this bill clarifies that the court may revoke their probation or parole, and they may be incarcerated.

We support this bill because we want to see individuals succeed in probation and parole programs so they can get back to regular life and be prosperous. But the current system allows for their entire program to be revoked, and for jail time, for minor slip-ups. Incarceration is a powerful tool, but it should be used sparingly for those who commit serious offenses, not technical violations.