Utah state prisons on lockdown after three assaults against officers
SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah state prison facilities were on lockdown Sunday following an attack in the max unit that sent a corrections officer to the hospital over the weekend.
It marks the third assault by an inmate against an officer in a two-week period at the Utah State Correctional Facility near Salt Lake City.
The Department of Corrections confirmed to KSL in a statement that on Saturday evening, “a correctional officer was assaulted in the Antelope restricted housing unit at the Utah State Correctional Facility. The officer was treated at a nearby hospital and was released later that evening.”
The department said the incident is under investigation for potential charges against the incarcerated individual.
“Both the Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake and Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison are on lockdown. The status of both facilities will be revisited on Monday,” the DOC said.
The statement was nearly identical to a statement DOC sent out last week, following an attack in the Antelope restricted housing unit that also sent an officer to the hospital on Jan. 31. The Antelope facility is the max facility at the prison.
The DOC confirmed another attack ten days before the Jan. 31 incident, that one in the Currant Facility, which is the mental health unit.
Assault against corrections officer brings up safety concerns at new state prison
“It’s getting worse,” said Chad Bennion, Executive Director of the Utah Fraternal Order of Police Utah Corrections Lodge 14.
He outlined the details he heard about the most recent attack.
“The inmate actually hit the officer through a cuff port,” Bennion said of what he was told. “And so he motioned down for the officer to talk to him and just hit him right through the cuff port.”
He said the assaults have been severe, resulting in broken bones and noses.
“It’s just escalating,” he said, and so are his frustrations.
Bennion explained he believes severe understaffing and mandatory overtimes for employees who aren’t used to working in the new prison are part of the problem. The new design, he said, requires more staffing than what they have.
“With the design of the new prison with this model, there’s just been– as it’s coming to light– too many blind spots, too many opportunities, and things for the inmates to exploit right now,” he explained.
Bennion told KSL last Tuesday how he had just met with lawmakers to talk about funding for hiring and retention. They’re hoping the state will set aside $42 million this session.
“We really need to get solutions right now and get the funding for these positions to entice more people to come to work for the department, to retain the people we have right now,” he said. “Because if we keep losing officers as well, it just continues to get more unsafe.”
He’ll be spending the next several weeks on Capitol Hill, hoping for good news.
“If things continue to escalate, I’m fearful that you could end up with a fatality, and that would be the worst thing to happen,” Bennion expressed. “And I don’t want to see that happen, but we’re not doing those things to that are keeping the officers safe.”
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