SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Recently, over 2,400 inmates were transferred from the Utah State Prison in Draper to the new Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City.
The move was made from July 11 through July 15. Since then, the inmates have been getting a feel for their new environment located five miles west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
According to representatives, the prison-building-process was “the largest construction process in Utah history,” costing a whopping $1,050,000,000.
So, how exactly is the prison operating? Unfortunately, recent concerns addressed by the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) suggest that things may not be going as smoothly as they were back in Draper.
In a media release issued by the UDC on August 19, officials acknowledged both ongoing issues and issues that have been addressed and resolved. Below, the ongoing issues within the Utah State Correctional Facility are outlined, along with statements from the UDC regarding reparative actions to be taken in the future.
Issues with Meal Timing
The UDC has acknowledged a staffing shortage in the state’s new Correctional Facility. As a result, they say some inmates have been “receiving meals at off hours or in too short a period of time.” Officials say this is due to the introduction of a new meal pattern in which inmates can eat together in a dining hall setting, whereas most of them were previously given their meals in a set section.
Regarding their plan to address the issue, the UDC says, “We remain positive that this is a move in the right direction in providing opportunities for individuals to prepare to successfully reenter their communities… Our team is working to address the logistical issues, and with each day the process continues to improve.”
Issue with a Lack of Phones/Communication
Though there are only two to three phones in each inmate section readily available for use at this time, the UDC says that they are “exploring options for what it would cost and take to add additional phones.”
The agency adds that they are excited for the launch of their tablet program, as it will likely offer inmates more opportunities and ways to communicate.
Issue of Mosquitos
Inmates were not the only ones who moved into the Utah State Correctional Facility last month. Apparently, a slew of mosquitos came with them. The UDC says they have been active in managing the mosquitos, explaining that the agency “is working with the SLC Mosquito Abatement Program and has already begun to implement safe and effective abatement measures.”
Officials note that they are also exploring what can be done on an individual basis, though they add that “safety and security takes precedence and many of the repellents are extremely flammable.”
A statement from the UDC regarding the medical issues within the state’s new Correctional Facility reads as follows:
“Unrelated to the move, the UDC transitioned to a new medical records system and is working to address technical difficulties.”
Although it’s clear the Utah State Correctional Facility is not yet operating in full-force, the UDC has recognized issues within the prison that have already been resolved. These issues, as well as how they were addressed by the UDC, are outlined below.
The Issue Addressed: Hygiene Products Lacking in Commissary
Representatives say that hygiene products have been fully stocked in the prison’s commissary. Shortages were a suggested result of the switch to a new vendor.
Additionally, the UDC notes that the ordering process will now be done electronically, which will “allow for a live list of items that are actually available so individuals won’t have to order items and then wait to hear back on whether their order was able to be fulfilled.”
The Issue Addressed: Not Enough Employees to Safely Supervise Inmates
Though the UDC notes that the Utah State Correctional Facility is at critical staffing levels, they acknowledge that “the operations team has worked diligently to ensure that the current staffing pattern can manage the safety and security of our operations.” However, the agency is still actively recruiting.
The Issue Addressed: The Laundry System
The UDC has acknowledged complaints that the facility’s laundry system has not been working well. Now, officials say that laundry services are being provided once a week where inmates can send clothing as well as sheets and blankets to be cleaned.
Additionally, inmates are provided with two laundry bags to separate colors and whites upon admission, and are provided a monthly Direct Exchange for sheets and blankets.
The Issue Addressed: Leaky Windows and Skylights
The UDC says they have followed up on small, unforeseen construction issues that surfaced during the move, and say that the prison’s “facility team has been responsive and nimble at addressing any concerns.”
The Issue Addressed: Not Enough Outdoor Time
The UDC says that an inmate’s allotment of outdoor time depends on their privilege level, and adds that “depending on where the incarcerated individual is housed in Draper versus USCF, it may or may not be comparable.”
The Issue Addressed: Prevalent Gang Violence Within the Facility
A statement from the UDC regarding how they have addressed gang violence within the Utah State Correctional Facility reads as follows:
“We primarily house based on an individual’s behavior with consideration for programming, medical, bed space, safety needs, etc. Should an individual have a safety concern, they can notify the officer on their housing unit at any time.”
The Issue Addressed: Meals Being Served Cold
Although the meals at the state’s new Correctional Facility are “identically proportioned from what they were at Draper,” the UDC says that the trays being used to hold food are smaller in width but deeper in order to provide appropriate temperature regulation.
Additionally, the agency says that they have asked their team members “to monitor trays as they’re delivered or served to ensure proportion consistency and food quality.”