August 5, 2008
Oxbow empty as jail crowds
Woodrow Burton is a "frequent flier" in the criminal-justice community. At 56, Burton has amassed a long history of arrests in Salt Lake County. But some of those busts have come without one thing: jail time. In a three-year span, Burton was nabbed 18 times, hauled to the county jail and released without ever spending a minute behind bars.
He isn't the only one who has had a hard time getting a bed at the jail. The lockup has turned away 10,167 other arrestees, according to a Salt Lake Tribune review of jail records between April 2005 and April 2008.
Meanwhile, bunk space inside the jail has grown so cramped that the Sheriff's Office absolved the sentences last weekend of 14 inmates, including some class A misdemeanor offenders, to relieve the overcrowding pressure.
That release could have profound policy implications at the County Council, which will weigh Tuesday whether to reopen the minimum- to medium-security Oxbow jail.
"We are at a critical threshold," Democratic Mayor Peter Corroon said. "It is time that we prepare Oxbow to be reopened."
The squeeze on jail space has troubled the county for years. But Sheriff Jim Winder said the problem has intensified, spurring early releases like the ones last week.
The county's population continues to climb. And crime has shot up with it. [Mark Godsey]
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