A bill that would give Wyoming judges the option of ordering some people convicted of felonies to a Department of Corrections substance abuse treatment program as opposed to jail has narrowly passed the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The bill would target those who have their probation revoked. According to testimony presented on the bill roughly 70 percent of probation revocations in Wyoming involve substance abuse.

House Bill 94 would order the state Department of Corrections to contract with a private company to treat convicted criminals for drug and/or alcohol addiction. It passed the house by a margin of 31-26 Tuesday.

Rep. Tyler LIndholm (R-Crook/Weston counties) argued it costs about half as much per day to treat someone for substance abuse as it does to keep them in jail. Other supporters of the bill said it would help address the overcrowding of the state prison system that has become an issue in recent years.

But Rep. Donald Burkhart (R-Carbon County) predicted that if the bill becomes law the costs would be a lot higher than many people think.

"They are in the business of making money," he said of organizations that treat substance abuse. "Don't get me wrong, they will," Burkhart added.

He said the bill essentially launches a new state agency at a time when lawmakers are trying to cut costs.

Some opponents of the measure also called the bill "half-baked" and were unhappy that it was a substitute version of the bill that was originally drafted in the Legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee.

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