Governor, lawmakers to address 3 inmate attacks on guards at Utah prisons

Feb 6, 2023, 7:13 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 6:03 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The maximum-security unit at the Utah State Prison remained closed to visitors Monday after an inmate attacked a correctional officer on Saturday. It was the third attack in two weeks.

“This is a very serious concern, not just for the legislature, but it should be a concern for every citizen,” said Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo.

The latest incident happened Saturday in the Antelope housing unit. The officer was taken to a hospital but released a short time later.

On Jan. 31, another correctional officer was attacked in the same unit.

The Department of Corrections released a statement Saturday that said, “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.”

“We have to understand why these incidents are occurring,” Bramble said. “Right now, we’re doing a deep dive. We’re trying to identify exactly what is the problem — is it funding? Is it staffing? Is it a culture within the Department of Corrections? Is it isolated to a couple areas that have common thread with supervision?”

As the Utah Legislature considers more funding for the Department of Corrections to address safety concerns at the Utah State Prison, Bramble worries it won’t solve the problem.

“All the money in the world can’t change problems if those problems are systemic based on the culture or based on the policies and procedures that an organization has,” he said.

On Monday, Gov. Spencer Cox released this statement:

Safety and security at our Corrections facilities remain of utmost importance and these security breaches are unacceptable. Corrections leadership is fully investigating these recent incidents and will reexamine safety protocols and staffing levels to protect our officers and the incarcerated Utahns in their care. We’re heartened that staffing levels have improved over the past two months. We are reviewing all aspects of our operations to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Bramble said, “We don’t know enough right now. Other than the incidents, we don’t know why it’s happening. We need to figure out why it’s occurring before we can try to propose a solution.”

The Department of Corrections said it will revisit opening the Antelope Housing Facility to visitors on Tuesday.

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Governor, lawmakers to address 3 inmate attacks on guards at Utah prisons