There is a growing concern in Utah over multiple fugitives who have walked away from a halfway house in Salt Lake City Utah and violently reoffended within the last several months.
Roaming the streets
Between September 2015 and now, there have been three known violent fugitives from a halfway house in Salt Lake City called Fortitude Treatment Center. All three of these fugitives were in the headlines after behaving aggressively towards the public. One took the life of a Unified Police Department officer in January.
Loss of an officer
44 year old Officer Douglas Barney was shot and killed last month while pursuing a fugitive involved in a hit and run accident. Officer Barney received a fatal gunshot to the head while another officer was shot multiple times but miraculously survived. 31 year Old Cory Lee Henderson, the man that killed Officer Barney, disappeared from the Fortitude Treatment Center in Salt Lake City. Henderson had been missing from the halfway house for less than a month when he took the life of Officer Barney, father of three and cancer survivor.
More AWOL parolees
Henderson’s desertion of the treatment center came less than four months after another fugitive, Robert Richard Berger, left the Fortitude Treatment Center and burglarized and violently attacked and stabbed a Salt Lake City woman in her home before he was shot and killed. From the same halfway house as Henderson and Berger came yet one more violent reoffender, 29 year old Tommy Burnham, who is currently on the run for ramming a police car after a high speed chase that stretched through multiple cities in the Salt Lake Valley.
Late night search
These three reoffenders all had one thing in common: they all left the Fortitude Treatment Center and never returned. Following the most recent fugitive reoffender incident, an extensive early morning search was done of the halfway house. Of the over 100 offenders searched, the AP&P discovered 18 were either testing positive for drugs or violating their parole. There was also an community search by the AP&P that turned up nearly a dozen offenders who were also fugitives from the Fortitude Treatment Center. Most of these fugitives were returned to prison.
Halfway houses in Utah
The Utah Department of Corrections has five halfway houses known as community correctional centers throughout the northern half of Utah; three of these centers are for men and two for women. These halfway houses are to help offenders transition to life on the other side of the bars. According to the UDC website, “ These halfway houses are designed to help offenders who may not have a place to go when they leave prison, need additional treatment as they transition back into the community or are struggling and at risk of returning to jail or prison.” Regarding those who are struggling, the website also states that at least two of these centers, the Atherton Community Treatment Center for Women and the Fortitude Treatment Center for men, are specifically for offenders who have already violated their probation or parole.
Although the UDC claims that in the Fortitude Treatment Center, “the offender is subject to tighter restrictions” and “agents actively monitor an offender”, there are apparently complications with this halfway house which holds over 300 offenders, nearly double the capacity of any other halfway house in Utah. While all these community correctional centers in Utah are wonderful for transitioning when run correctly, they are dangerous to the community when offenders slip through the cracks. Offenders, especially those prone to reoffend, should be monitored more cautiously and reported immediately if unable to locate. Unfortunately, glitches with halfway houses such as the Fortitude could potentially cause issues down the road such as closures for other halfway houses that currently run efficiently. This would be devastating for those offenders who would have benefited from the transitioning centers.