Between 2000-2019, Utah’s overall rate of suicides was 80 per 100,000 inmates, which is roughly twice above the national average of 43 suicides per 100,000 inmates.
Suicides in Utah prisons have increased exponentially throughout the past two decades: from 2001 to 2019, the number of suicides increased 85% in state prisons, 61% in federal prisons, and 13% in local jails.
Nationwide, the total number of suicides in correctional facilities increased from 499 in 2001 to 695 in 2019, according to the report. Suicides accounted for between 5% to 8% of all deaths among state and federal prisoners and between 24% to 35% of local jail deaths.
Demographically speaking, the majority of jail inmates as well as state and federal prisoners who died by suicide were males, white, and died by means of suffocation, including hanging and self-strangulation.
The report also said that more than half of all suicides in local jails occurred within the first 30 days of incarceration. In state and federal prisons, suicides occurred after more than a year of time served.
Utah also gets an overall “F” grade when it comes to its handling of COVID-19 in prisons, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit criminal justice and public policy think tank based in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
The state was rated at “medium” for its vaccination rate among prison inmates. According to the report, 58% of Utah prison inmates were vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 2021.
Prison population in the state decreased only 17% from 6,900 in March 2020 to 5,728 in July 2021 due to early release because of the pandemic.
A total of 18 COVID-related deaths were reported in Utah prisons. The infection rate within prisons in the state was at 53%.