Incarcerated Students Complete Academic Year with a Presentation to Staff

Salt Lake Community College students finished up their academic year with a presentation to UDC staff members highlighting areas where they believe improvements could be made. 

Incarcerated students participating in a communication class through Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) recently presented ideas regarding improvements that could be made at the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) in Salt Lake City. 

SLCC’s Communications 1010 class highlights the elements of effective communication. The class primarily focuses on communication principles and practice applied in interpersonal, group, written, electronic, and oral presentation assignments. 

The main presentation to officials with the Utah Department of Corrections focused on the movement of incarcerated individuals within female housing in the Dell Facility at USCF. Three other areas were also briefly highlighted, including providing each incarcerated individual an additional bin for food, having “natural light” moments, and requesting the opportunity for incarcerated individuals to share photos with their families. 

The class was led by Norman Zurn, who has taught for more than 40 years at both the former Utah State Prison in Draper and USCF. 

Zurn told the audience before the presentations kicked off that this was an opportunity for students to practice their newly minted communications skills.

“Whether you take the time to do it is up to you, but what’s important is that we’re here to discuss,” Zurn said. “Please remember that this is difficult for our population to get up and give a presentation in front of an audience.”

The first presenters, April Fain and Tuusao Ama, talked about wanting smaller bins for each individual to use for food to prevent pests, mice, and the mixing of their food items with their laundry. 

The next presenters, Adrianna Lucero and Desiree Mike, requested that there be an opportunity for incarcerated individuals to have their photo taken and be shared with their families. 

“This is my last semester before I graduate,” Lucero said. “It would be so great to share a photo of myself with my family in that setting.” 

Heidi Rasmussen and Adrianna Lucero presented on turning off the lights for short periods of time on the weekend to allow for only natural light. 

“In a big section where lights are off for a couple hours, it can make things calmer and quieter and a lot of women suffer from anxiety, depression and this could help,” Lucero said.

The final presentation was given by Samantha Tuiman and Jennifer Mercier. Their subject focused on the movement of incarcerated individuals at USCF, which includes movement to programming, education, recreation and meals. 

Presenters discussed concerns with inconsistency and delays in moves. Their solution was to work with staff to provide incarcerated individuals with more autonomy through a tracking board. They noted a similar system was instituted at the former prison in Draper. 

All the presenters – who expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak – said they recognized that it was ultimately up to the administration to implement their recommendations. 

For their part, several staff members expressed their appreciation for the speakers and noted that they looked forward to continuing the conversations. 

“We see you, we hear you and we care about you,” said Chyleen Richey, UDC Executive Deputy Director who was in attendance. “ I know that things have been difficult and we are trying our very best, but we know that we can do better. I so appreciate you coming up with solutions and putting yourselves out there.” 

According to David Bokovoy, director of prison education for SLCC, they anticipate a 93 percent completion rate for women participating in SLCC classes at USCF.  

“I think that is something to feel good about and celebrate,” Bokovoy said. “I’m proud of you and I think our future is bright. There is a lot of work to still be done, but there are people who truly care.”

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