Incarcerated Individuals volunteer to fill sandbags at Central Utah Correctional Facility

Like many in Utah, Gunnison residents are thankful for the abundant snowfall this winter, easing drought conditions in the region.

And like many in Utah, they are concerned a sudden rise in temperature will lead to rapid melt of the record-breaking snowpack, creating the possibility of flooding. It’s happened here before.

 “I lived in Gunnison all my life,” said Ryan Thompson, a lieutenant at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in the city. “I remember the floods here in ’83.”

With that in mind, Thompson has helped organize a volunteer effort between the prison and the city to fill sandbags. The city is providing bags and upwards of 50 tons of sand. Incarcerated individuals have volunteered to fill and prepare the bags, more than 2,800 total.

 “The prison has been an asset to the city, for sure,” said J.D. Bunnell, Gunnison’s Public Works Director.

The goal is to be prepared in case the worst happens. 

The Governor’s Office, and officials across the state with counties and cities, are taking preemptive measures to be prepared for anticipated flooding from this year’s spring runoff. 

“We are thankful we have the opportunity to contribute in any way we can to support the governor’s initiatives related to flood mitigation and prevention,” said Spencer Turley, assistant deputy executive director with UDC. “We appreciate the partnership with local communities and look forward to finding additional ways to contribute in the future.”

Additional benefits of filling the sandbags include allowing incarcerated individuals to give back to the community and building relationships between groups, said Deputy Warden Kristin Keisel.

 “It was incredible to see the coordinated effort with staff, inmates and the city,” she said.

The only question remaining is whether the bags will help stem expected runoff.

 “We’re going to get water,” noted Bunnell. “I don’t know how much.

 “That’s the scary part in all this.”