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Summit County Sheriff s Lt. Kati Booth was awarded the Utah Jail Commander of the Year award by the Utah Sheriff s Association. Booth has served Summit County for 15 years and has helped institute vocational skills programs for inmates. (Photo courtesy of the Summit County Sheriff's Office)

Summit County Sheriff's Lt. Kati Booth has served the county for 15 years, and this month she was given the Utah Jail Commander of the Year award by the Utah Sheriff's Association. Among her accomplishments, Booth was the first in the state to become a Certified Jail Manager.

"What makes [this award] most significant is that she was voted by her peers," said Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds. "She's quite an innovator she thinks about things outside the box."

"I started in school in paralegal and business law, and I found that was really boring," Booth said. "I started in corrections and I thought that I would move on into patrol or other areas, but I've really enjoyed corrections."

Booth has served the Summit County Sheriff's Office for 15 years. She has 20 total years' experience in corrections, serving in Cache and Uinta Counties as well. She said the most enjoyable part of her job has been bringing new programs into the jail that help to rehabilitate inmates.

"There's been a huge shift in corrections over the past 20 years," Booth said. "We used to confine and punish [inmates] and then let them out. Now we confine them and try to correct their behavior."

Booth has helped institute vocational skills programs, teaching inmates skills such as carpentry, cooking or gardening. Giving inmates basic, practical skills that they can use in the real world has been very important to Booth during her time as Jail Commander.

"We teach live skills programs basic, everyday life functions that some of these individuals have never learned," Booth said.

According to Edmunds, we're not trying to make jail so punitive that people come here and they get hardened, we want them to serve their time and repay society, as it were, but we also want to return them better than how they came us.

Edmunds added that since inmates are difficult to work with they have a variety of factors that can cause them stress, such as distance from friends and family and being in a highly regimented environment it takes a particular kind of personality to run a jail. Booth, he believes, has that trait.

"She really strikes a balance between discipline and caring," Edmunds said. "I've never encountered anybody more talented in the field of corrections. In government, that's a big deal. Often, the very talented, they decide they want to go to the private sector for more money."

Another facet of Booth's vocational skills program involves inmates growing food and flowers. The flowers grown by inmates are used in Summit County buildings, while the food helps to offset the jail's meal costs, while giving the inmates crucial skills.

Booth believes it is those she has worked with over the years that have helped her thrive with Summit County.

"It's the people I work with that make me look good," Booth said. "I have great leaders that have taught me and mentored me over the years. I attribute my success to them."

Staff development is Booth's current goal. Since she is uncertain how much longer she will serve at the Sheriff's Office, she said she wants to bring her employees up to the level where they will be able to take over operations at the jail.

Edmunds said Summit County should be grateful that Booth has chosen to serve here.

"I promoted her from sergeant to lieutenant and I've seen her just blossom into the assignment," Edmunds said. "She's capable of running a facility much larger than this one, but thank heavens for Summit County taxpayers she's chosen to serve here."