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Behind the Badge: Overseeing Utah’s prison food

Behind the Badge

DRAPER, Utah (ABC4) – Behind the Badge is taking readers Tuesday behind bars. ABC4 News goes inside the Utah State Prison for a rare look at a prison job that poses one of its highest security risks.

At the Utah State Prison in Draper, serving time could mean serving food. Stepping out of your cell to work in the prison’s culinary program is a privilege, and the man overseeing the meals is corrections Sgt. Seth Jarman.

“It’s a good place to be, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” says Sgt. Seth Jarman, Utah Dept. of Corrections.  

Jarman has only been in charge of the program for the last two months, but he’s quickly learned inmates like the extra work.  

“In culinary it’s a really positive environment, everybody is away from their cells, away from the normal day-to-day, working hard, feeling they’re doing something that matters,” shares Jarman.

Each day they have a lot to do.

The prison’s roughly 3,000 inmates eat three meals a day, that’s 9,000 daily meals to prep, assemble and deliver, and it has to happen with precision. When it comes to food preparation in prison, precaution is simply part of the job. Not only must every kitchen tool be accounted for, but correctional officers must be extra aware of their surroundings.

“We’re watching very closely they don’t put something under and slop the food over the top of it. That’s one thing we look for, say the offenders are prepping vegetables and we have to give them a knife, the knife is attached to a steel cable tether and we lock that to the table, because if there’s a knife missing somewhere we could get seriously injured,” Jarman explains.

Sgt. Jarman tells ABC4 News despite the job’s inherent challenges, it’s one he embraces.

“I like new things, I thrive in the chaos,” Jarman states.

Next year when the final doors close on this prison, Jarman is ready to handle the challenge of moving to the new one.

Moving to the new prison in Salt Lake City is coming faster than you think. The corrections team is expected to transfer the inmates next summer. Officers like Sgt. Jarman is already getting practice on closing down cell blocks when the big day comes.

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