Thanks to the help of volunteers and incarcerated individuals, the Green housing unit at the Utah State Correctional Facility held its first sweat lodge ceremony recently.  A sweat lodge is a ceremonial structure used by various indigenous cultures for spiritual and healing purposes. It is typically a dome-shaped hut made from natural materials like wood and covered with blankets, skins, or other insulating materials. The primary purpose is to create a sacred space where participants can engage in a ritualized sweat ceremony, often involving physical and spiritual purification.  “To me, the way I was raised, this is our way of life,” said volunteer Stephen Todachiny, who helped gather the materials and lead the ceremony. “Other denominations have their services and prayers, and this is our service and prayers. “I think it’s a very important part of their spirituality. To maintain balance,” Todachiny added. “A lot have drifted away from the “Red Road” (a balanced life path) and are looking to get back to that.”  The frame is usually constructed using flexible young saplings, in this case willow. They were bent into shape and anchored into the ground. Prior to the ceremony, participants used blankets and tarps to cover the structure. Volunteers, including Todachiny and “Xochi,” built a fire to heat rocks, which were eventually placed in a pit in the center of the lodge. Water was poured over the heated rocks to create steam.  Participants first gathered in a prayer circle, expressing themselves to the group. They then proceeded into the lodge. For many indigenous communities, participating in these ceremonies helps to maintain cultural traditions, strengthen communal bonds, and pass down teachings from one generation to the next. Julie Hauser, Ethnic Minority Resource Sergeant at USCF, noted that such services are heavily dependent on volunteers such as Todachiny. “Our volunteers for the Native American religious services play a vital role in preserving cultural and spiritual connections, fostering a sense of identity and community, and contributing to inmates’ overall well-being and rehabilitation,” she said. Communication Office, Liam Truchard...

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services and UDC are excited to host another community listening event to hear your feedback regarding your experiences with healthcare in Utah's correctional facilities. If you'd like to prepare for the conversation, here are a few prompts to consider: Describe an instance when the healthcare provided to your loved one under the supervision of UDC met or exceeded your expectations. Conversely, describe an instance when the healthcare provided to your loved one under the supervision of UDC fell short of your expectations.   You can join the event through Zoom at this link: https://utah-gov.zoom.us/j/83008002946...

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LATg_N1cPDY[/embedyt] Utah Correctional Industries is one of the first in the nation to bring virtual reality headsets inside a correctional facility, utilizing them to train incarcerated individuals to work in its programs. Done in partnership with New York-based Transfr, which specializes in VR training, UCI is giving men and women opportunities to utilize cutting-edge technology to improve their skills now. It also allows them to be better prepared to successfully reenter society in the future. “What this does is it gives them on-the-job training before they get into our shops,” said UCI’s Jesse Gettler, based at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. “This is technology that's being used in the streets and as UCI advances their training programs, we want to stay consistent to that.” The headsets are similar to those used for gaming programs around the world. However, the programs are downloaded and installed on the devices, which do not connect to the internet. This allows UCI – a division of the Utah Department of Corrections – to maintain tight security at both CUCF and the Utah State Correctional Facility. “UCI was the first in the nation . . .  to be able to have our inmate participants use the Transfr headsets and utilize them in the most effective way possible,” said UCI Deputy Director Armanda Mercado. “We've also made a lot of contact with other correctional industries who have wanted to see how we were able to implement this, so that they can follow our footsteps.” Kate Kimmer with Transfr said that since initially partnering with UCI, the company has now joined with several other corrections departments, county jails and juvenile detention centers to utilize the headsets. “UDC has been a champion of innovation and opportunity,” she said. “They have worked hard to offer new ways to train and onboard new employees and familiarize incarcerated teammates with emerging technologies that upskill for jobs inside and careers outside the facility.” In addition to presenting the training, the system tracks participants, enabling supervisors to see what programs have been completed and providing feedback of what participants are missing. Cole Munoz was one of the first UCI participants to don the googles and leap into the metaverse. “I jumped right on it and took off with it. I didn't want to get off of it,” he said. “It's pretty cool. To be able to strap that on and get the training and just to actually play with it is a privilege, honestly.” UCI’s Leigha Harris, who helps individuals get up to speed on using the headsets, said Munoz’s experience is common. Most love the opportunity, she said, because it’s outside the normal day-to-day experiences of incarceration. Plus, it gives them the chance to see what their friends and family on the outside have been doing. Participation is voluntary and, surprisingly, Harris said not everyone was keen to go virtual. “Quite a few offenders did not want to try it at all. And I think a lot of that is based in fear,” said Harris. “Some of them have never even had an Xbox or a Super Nintendo for that matter.” Once past the initial stages, most are on-board with the program, she says. “I've only had one that said, ‘Nope, this is not for me,’” Harris said. “He tried it and found out this is not his world.” Mercado said as UCI expands its shops, it will offer more programs on the headsets.   Communication Office, Liam Truchard...

Memorial services were held on July 27 and 28 at USCF to honor the life and passing of K-9 Officer Loki. Staff were invited to pay respects to the life and service of our beloved K-9 partner. Loki, born February 2, 2015, was a Belgian Malinois. After being procured by the UDC in 2017, K-9 Officer Loki served admirably for six years under the guidance of three different handlers. Throughout his career, Loki demonstrated exceptional skills in narcotics detection and suspect apprehension. Loki also represented the department in many K-9 demonstrations and competitions. His deployments at various correctional facilities, including the Utah State Prison, Utah State Correctional Facility, and Adult Probation and Parole, were notably successful. Additionally, Loki provided valuable support to other agencies in the valley through his K9 deployments. Loki's commitment to duty and exceptional service to the community will forever be remembered and honored. His loss leaves a profound void in our law enforcement family. Rest in peace, loyal K-9 Officer Loki.   Communications Office, Andrew Damas...

We have an important announcement regarding scheduled maintenance that will take place at 9 p.m., Tuesday, August 1, at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. Our Facilities team will be working on a necessary fitting for a water softener project, which will require the entire site to go without water for a short period.   Anticipated Duration: Approximately 2 hours Potential Extended Duration: Up to 5 hours (in case of unforeseen issues)   Once this fitting is in place, the facility can divert culinary water to different areas while working on other sections. This fix eliminates the need to shut off water to the entire facility during future maintenance projects.   We’ve communicated with incarcerated individuals to address their hygiene needs before 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Restrooms will be available for use during the water shut-off but will require the provided water jugs to flush the toilets.   About 10-15 additional 5-gallon water bottles will be available in each housing area for emergency use.   We understand that this maintenance may cause some inconvenience, but ensuring the smooth functioning of our water softener project is crucial and will ultimately benefit everyone at CUCF.  ...

As National Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week approaches, the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) gears up to host a series of events designed to highlight the crucial work of our dedicated Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) agents. From July 17th to the 21st, legislators and local media will have the opportunity to witness firsthand the reentry and supervision processes that help reintegrate individuals into society and ensure public safety. Throughout National Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week, the UDC wants to recognize and celebrate the hard work and unwavering dedication of its AP&P agents. These professionals promote rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and safeguard communities. Their commitment to serving and assisting individuals navigating the challenging path to reintegration is paramount in fostering a safer and more inclusive society. The UDC encourages legislators, media representatives, and the public to participate in these events, providing a valuable opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of reentry and supervision processes. By engaging with these events, attendees will witness the transformative power of dedicated individuals working towards creating a brighter future for those seeking to rebuild their lives....

As the mosquito season hits full power, the Utah Department of Corrections is taking additional steps to help staff and incarcerated individuals avoid the annoying insects at the Utah State Correctional Facility. UDC is rolling out a lotion-based repellent that will be available at no cost to staff and incarcerated offenders at USCF. The product being used was recommended by the Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement District.   Every incarcerated individual will have access to the repellent, but the method in which they use the lotion depends on their housing location. Some will have it available during times when movement is permitted in their sections. Others will have open access monitored by correctional staff. Those in restricted units will be offered the lotion as they are escorted to recreation yards. “We take the concerns about mosquitos seriously and are working to alleviate as many concerns as possible,” said Spencer Turley, an Assistant Deputy Executive Director at the UDC. “We are grateful for the funding and support from the Governor's Office and the Legislature that allowed us to offer this repellent to all incarcerated individuals and staff for free. We are also thankful for the ongoing support and partnership with the Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement District.”   In addition, Utah Correctional Industries is in the process of designing and creating secure dispensers for the lotion. This will allow greater access to the repellent.  Individuals may still purchase their own repellent via commissary, and use the lotion as needed.    Thanks to support in the Utah State Legislature, the UDC has partnered with SLCMAD for a multi-pronged mitigation effort. The plan includes aerial spraying, insecticide applications, traps and other preventative measures. You can learn about other efforts the UDC has been working on with the abatement district on our website. You can also hear about mosquito abatement at USCF in our Conversations With Corrections podcast featuring abatement district officials. More information for roll out and utilization of the repellant will be forthcoming.   ...

Loki – an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois and Utah Department of Corrections K9 officer – was found deceased in a K9 vehicle at the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) on Thursday evening. “We are heartbroken by the loss of Loki, who served this department faithfully for six years,” said Executive Director, Brian Redd. “We are mourning along with all of our staff, and at the same time we are committed to fully investigating the circumstances of Loki’s passing.” The specific circumstances of the death are not clear at this time. The Utah Department of Corrections has asked the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to investigate the incident. The Department of Public Safety can be contacted for any inquiries specific to the case. Loki began working with the Department’s K9 unit in 2017. He was one of seven K9s in the department that assist at both USCF and Central Utah Correctional Facility with drug detection, fugitive apprehension, facility security and emergency response. Utah State Correctional Facility is located in Salt Lake City and houses approximately 2,600 male and female incarcerated individuals....

On Monday, July 3rd, the Bear Highside Housing Unit at the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) was buzzing with energy and creativity as incarcerated individuals showcased their remarkable talents in a captivating talent show. Organized by James Featherstone in collaboration with Family Home Evening and the UDC, this event was a testament to the power of art and the rehabilitation journey. The impressive lineup featured a diverse array of performers, including Mike Robinson, Anthony Kish, Sterling Allan, Albert Givens, Jeff Meyer, Daniel Senior, Jeff Finlayson, Brad Freeze, Alex Perkins, Roger Rynhart, Mike Strickland, Joel-Lehi Organista, Charles Sargent, Ron Kelly, Desean Goins, Brett Hancock, Brandon Sappington, Justin Brinkerhoff, Jessie Mirelez, James Featherstone, and Chaplain David Bokovoy. Their captivating acts spanned various genres, ranging from soulful musical performances to heartfelt poetry readings. In addition to the live performances, individuals from the Bear Highside Housing Unit who didn't take the stage contributed their artistic talents by crafting unique items such as stuffed animals, hats, and other art pieces. These creations were thoughtfully displayed just outside the chapel where the event occurred, adding an extra touch of creativity to the atmosphere. Ensuring that everyone had the opportunity to enjoy the show, a live stream of the event was broadcasted by the UDC on tablets for those in higher security housing units who couldn't attend in person. Furthermore, a recording will be available to all incarcerated individuals via their tablets. The recorded performance will also be shared on YouTube, enabling friends and family members of the participants to share in the joy and celebrate the talents of their loved ones. James Featherstone, who served as the host and emcee, delivered an outstanding performance, keeping the audience engaged and creating an enjoyable atmosphere. Support services were provided by Paul Kimbal, contributing to the seamless execution of the talent show. The success of this event would not have been possible without the dedication and efforts of Lt. Dunford and Chaplain Bokovoy, who played instrumental roles in bringing the event to life. Special recognition goes to the LDS Bear River Branch Volunteers, whose hard work behind the scenes truly made a difference and helped create a memorable experience for everyone involved. The Bear Highside Housing Unit talent show not only entertained and uplifted the spirits of the incarcerated individuals but also demonstrated the transformative power of art and the positive impact it can have on the rehabilitation process. It served as a testament to the remarkable talent and resilience of those we supervise.   Alec Langton...

Salt Lake Community College’s Prison Education Graduates Earn Associate’s Degrees   SALT LAKE CITY, July 10, 2023—Today, twenty-three students proudly graduated from Salt Lake Community College’s (SLCC) Prison Education Program at the Utah State Correctional Facility. Sixteen received an associate’s degree, all but one in General Studies, and seven received a certificate of completion for General Education.    “As these individuals are released from prison and become our neighbors, they often face a tough transition. SLCC is happy to be helping them gain the skills and education they need to find meaningful employment,” said SLCC President Deneece G. Huftalin. “This allows them to support their families, possibly end cycles of poverty and incarceration, and become productive members in their communities.”    In the past year, more than 220 students, men and women, have participated in SLCC classes offered at the Utah State Correctional Facility. The community college anticipates around 300 students to register next fall for classes.     The SLCC prison education program (PEP) is one of the few in-person options available for students to take classes that can lead to a college degree. Currently, SLCC is the only school in the Utah Correctional Facility to offer an associate’s degree. Davis Tech has been offering technical education there since 2010.   “Providing education in the prison makes so much sense on both a practical level and a human level. It transforms individuals, strengthens families and ultimately benefits society,” said David Bokovoy, director of SLCC’s Prison Education Program. He pointed out that access to education significantly reduces recidivism. “Our students leave prison with hope, a belief in their potential, and a plan to find a job and sometimes pursue more education.”    SLCC’s prison program started as a pilot in 2017 with funding from the Utah State legislature. It began with 40 students (men and women) in seven classes. Now, SLCC offers 20 classes that can lead to six associate’s degrees: Anthropology, Business, Criminal Justice, General Studies, History and Paralegal Studies. More than two dozen SLCC faculty members teach in the Prison Education Program.   The program’s class completion rates are high, with a 92% rate for women and 66% men. (Men are more often moved to other facilities interrupting class attendance and completion).    “The opportunity SLCC provides for the students is really immeasurable. For most of our students, it is the first time they have been exposed to post-secondary education, and the first time they realize that they can succeed at this,” said Brian Fauver, Department of Corrections, education coordinator. “Education is valuable to any human. It’s not only about opening up economic opportunities, but it is also about expanding our identity and reaching our fullest potential as human beings.”   Ferosa Bluff, who earned her associate’s degree in General Education was one of a handful of students who spoke at the graduation ceremony. She spoke about how education had lifted up students’ self-esteem, self-confidence, and began to help them find purpose. “Education has allowed us to learn, grow and change as human beings.”   About Salt Lake Community College Salt Lake Community College is Utah’s largest two-year college, proudly educating the state’s most diverse student body in 8 areas of study at 10 locations and online. The majority of SLCC graduates transfer to four-year institutions, and thousands more are trained in direct-to-workforce programs. This year, SLCC is celebrating 75 years of providing Utahns with education and training in fields that builds the state’s vibrant economy and high quality of life. ...