SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Since Jan. 21, there have been three assaults against Utah State Correctional facility staff, prompting an investigation and possible charges to be filed.
The first assault took place on Jan. 21 when a correctional officer was allegedly attacked while working a section of the Utah State Prison that housed prisoners with mental illness. The second attack happened on Jan. 30 when an officer was preparing dinner for a section of the Antelope facility that houses prisoners with “serious behavior issues” and was reportedly attacked.
The most recent assault was last Saturday, Feb. 4, when a Seargent at the Antelope facility was again preparing dinner and was allegedly attacked by a prisoner who reportedly refused to return to his cell.
Details of the assaults are extremely limited, as correctional staff sought to protect security efforts established at the prison.
Prison Operations Director Dan Chestnut told local media that the officers are recovering well and have the full support of the facilities. The prisoners who allegedly carried out the assaults are being investigated, and will reportedly be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“Let me be clear, staff assaults are not acceptable. Ever. Each of these assaults rests directly with the individual who carried them out,” said Chestnut during a press conference. “As we have reviewed these incidents, it’s been apparent these individuals were determined and sought opportunities to carry out these acts.”
According to Chestnut, there are 5,938 prisoners between the correctional facilities in Salt Lake City, Gunnison, and across all contracted jails. The Salt Lake City facility alone houses over 2,600 prisoners.
Chestnut said the attacks were not due to a shortage of staffing at the correctional facilities, but instead the prisoners were “motivated” and “looked for opportunities” to assault the correctional staff.
However, staffing does continue to be a priority focus for the Utah Department of Corrections. Chestnut said the Department of Corrections is actively recruiting new staff on a consistent basis and has seen a rise in the number of applicants and hired staff.
In the meantime, Chestnut said the department has been reviewing communication systems, restructuring movement in certain areas of the facilities, reinforcing training, and overall, thoroughly reviewing security measures.