It looked like a courtroom, complete with flags and the state seal.  There was a judge, prosecutors and a defense attorney. The defendant was brought in to face charges. It featured real pleas and real sentences. Yet those facing incarceration didn’t have to wait to be transferred to prison. They were already there. The courtroom had come to them. For the first time in its short existence, the Utah State Correctional Facility was the location for a Third District Court session. Presided over by Judge Matthew Bates, 15 cases were heard in a pilot program to improve court efficiency. “This is something new and we’re trying to figure out what cases we can take,” Judge Bates said to one defendant during the session Friday, December 15. Held in a room usually reserved for Utah Board of Pardons and Parole hearings, the court session was a year in the making, said Brian Kenney, who was recently appointed the director of the UDC’s new Safety, Risk, and Standards Division. “The goal is to streamline the process and reduce transports,” he said, noting that the day’s events eliminated the need to shuttle 15 offenders to a courthouse. “It’s getting more inmates in front of the court. And it’s 100 percent safer.” All defendants were already incarcerated. These were charges they acquired while in custody or pending charges they had open. Of the 15 cases, five resulted in guilty pleas, all misdemeanors. When court wasn’t in session, downtime was spent talking about current events and who had the best breakfast that day. Afterward, all parties held a debriefing to discuss what went well and what could be improved for the next one. Everything from what time to have incarcerated offenders ready to the configuration of the courtroom itself was examined for improvement. And there will be a next time. The second event will take place January 12, with monthly hearings set through April. The docket will rotate between Bates and Judge Barry Lawrence. All agreed that, for the first time out, it went smoother than anticipated. “I think it was successful,” noted Kenney. “Now we have to refine the process.”...

Jennifer Blau of the Utah Department of Corrections has been honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence for her efforts as a supervisor of pre-sentence investigation writers. Gov. Spencer Cox presented Blau and 25 other state employees with the award during a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion recently. The awards are an annual event designed to recognize the contributions of state employees in the categories of innovation and efficiency, energy and environment, heroism, leadership and outstanding public service. The award recipients were selected as examples of distinguished service and dedication to the citizens of Utah. “We’re fortunate to have truly dedicated public servants who love this state and the people we serve,” said Gov. Cox. “These state employees represent the best of the best and contribute to Utah’s success. I could not be more proud or grateful for their efforts.” Blau supervises a team of 10 civilian pre-sentence investigation writers who work directly with criminal defendants to conduct fact-finding background interviews and investigations. They create a pre-sentence report, which is submitted to the court. Blau was instrumental in developing an in-service training program for all pre-sentence writers in the state. Her commitment to training Adult Probation and Parole staff on the processes and policies related to the sentencing of offenders helps improve community safety. The write-up for the award noted that Blau “is a standout employee with a strong desire to improve public safety and the lives of staff and those under UDC supervision. She effortlessly builds and maintains relationships with judges, clerks, attorneys, jail staff and sentencing commission staff. She is a true partner to all in the criminal justice field. (Blau) is an exceptional example of a true Peer Leader and public servant.” The Governor’s Award for Excellence was created in 2007 as a way to recognize the outstanding work of state employees and honor their achievements....

It’s the quiet. It’s what makes it stand out in a place of constant noise. Which is strange, because the Reading for the Blind Program at the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) is all about sound. The program utilizes incarcerated individuals to give a voice to novels, plays, magazines and more. Their audience will be some of the millions of sight-impaired people who participate in the National Library Service, a free benefit provided to qualified participants by the Library of Congress. Reading for the Blind has been a part of the Utah Department of Corrections for over 40 years, first at Utah State Prison and now at USCF. “It’s so meaningful, not only to those who get our work, but to those who work here,” said Teena Brown, who oversees the program at the facility. “Once I got started, I fell in love with it.” Yet a hush prevails inside the classroom-sized office tucked near the Bear housing units. Those whose job it is to vocally project and speak clearly do so in recording booths behind soundproof doors. Others wear headsets while silently editing the day’s recordings. “I love it, the whole thing, (including) the quiet,” said Russell Black, who is incarcerated at USCF. He worked in other positions with Division of Prison Operations and with Utah Correctional Industries before landing at the program five years ago. He now does repairs on the digital talking book players, used by patrons of the library to listen to audiobooks and magazines. He fixes about 30 a month. “It’s one job that gives meaning to us doing something for those who can’t do it themselves,” he added. The NLS began with passage of the Pratt-Smoot Act in 1931, designed to provide books to blind adults. Its co-author was U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah. The act was amended in 1933 to include talking books. The Utah State Library administers the program not only for Utah, but for Alaska, Montana and Wyoming as well. It also provides braille material for an additional 19 states, said Lisa Nelson, program manager at the Utah State Library. “We’re very impressed with the quality of material they produce,” said Nelson. “They do a great job.” Quality, and quantity. The state library has a recording studio as well, but it is staffed by volunteers who may be in the office a day or two a week. The 16 or so staffers at USCF are there five days a week, cranking out content. “We can get things done a lot faster there,” noted Nelson. “They really do have a quick turnaround.” Small projects can be done in a week. Bigger projects, like entire books, take more time, said Christie Jensen, who has worked for the UDC for nearly 18 years and is currently the Library Director at USCF. “A few years back we did the entire Old Testament,” she said. Originally done on vinyl records and then cassette tapes, the service now uses a proprietary flash drive player that can hold 5 to 7 books, noted Nelson. The prison program has kept up, using modern digital editing and recording. Yet staff and offenders agree that while the work is enjoyable, the importance behind the program is what gives them the greatest satisfaction. “It’s always the one thing we can feel good about,” said Jensen. “We try to remind our offenders often how this work is meaningful. This program has impact.” Brown understands. She originally applied for what she thought was a library position at the UDC 18 months ago. Taking the position of program manager has been a godsend for her. “I didn’t know I was looking for it, but I’m so glad I found it.”...

The Utah Department of Corrections held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Timpanogos Community Treatment Center on Thursday, Sept. 28. Attended by state and local elected officials, media representatives and UDC employees, the ceremony marked the completion of construction and the readiness to begin operations at the center. "It's the first of it's kind for UDC in Utah County," said Brian Redd, Executive Director of the UDC, during the event. "The ultimate goal of a community treatment facility like this is to help individuals go back into society and contribute." Designed to provide those being released from incarceration with a stable environment while receiving additional treatment, the center will help individuals find employment, seek permanent housing and reintegrate themselves into society. Expected to open by the end of the year, the center at 748 N. 1340 W., in Orem, will be staffed around-the-clock. Timpanogos will be home to 33 parolees to start, with a maximum capacity of 82. It will be the sixth such facility operated by the UDC. The department operates four in Salt Lake County and one in Weber County. As part of the refurbishment of the center, a number of design elements have been added, including glass walls and wood floors. There is a spiral staircase in the center, linking the first- and second-floor staff areas. Luke Lassiter will serve as director of the facility....

An incarcerated individual at the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) has died after being found unresponsive in his cell on Sunday, Sept. 24. The Utah Department of Corrections’ Law Enforcement Bureau and the Utah State Bureau of Investigation have responded to the incident and an investigation is underway. Steven Davis, 66, was found by staff Sunday morning and was declared deceased by responding medical personnel. The cause of death has not been determined at this time. Davis has been incarcerated since December 1983 for first degree sodomy of a child and parole violations. CUCF is located in Gunnison, UT and houses approximately 1,760 incarcerated men. The facility is on lockdown during the preliminary investigation with the exception of pre-scheduled visits....

An outbreak of scabies in a section of the Utah State Correctional Facility will close some areas to visitors and quarantine inmates in the infected unit. Reported cases are currently in Green, a dorm-style housing unit where incarcerated individuals receive sex offense or substance abuse treatment. At least 57 people have been confirmed to have scabies. Visitation to this unit of the prison is temporarily closed. Nurses with the Division of Correctional Health Services are providing treatment, including the prescription cream permethrin, to everyone suspected or confirmed to have scabies. Clothing and bedding from those confirmed or suspected of being infected will be washed with a disinfectant solution and other areas of the state prison will be cleaned to prevent further spread. Inmates and staff will also receive education about the hygienic steps needed to protect themselves and others from scabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite. The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash. The scabies mite usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies. More information is available from a CDC fact sheet. Communications office, September 22, 2023...

Davis Technical College (Davis Tech) and the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) announced the launch of three new certification programs for women at the Utah State Correctional Facility today. The programs, which include Automation and Robotics, Information Technology, and Web and Graphic Design, provide valuable skills and knowledge to help incarcerated women successfully transition back into their communities. “In a limited environment, I feel limitless,” said Heidi Rasmussen who is a current participant in Davis Tech’s new programs. “Knowing that I can control my future … maybe this time I’ll be more successful upon release now that I am more eligible for jobs.” Attendees had the opportunity to meet with program instructors and participants, witness live demonstrations of the skills being taught, and hear success stories from current and former program participants. "We're thrilled to partner with Davis Technical College to offer these valuable certification programs to incarcerated women," said Brian Redd, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections. "We believe that education and vocational training are essential tools in helping individuals successfully re-enter society, and we're proud to offer these opportunities to the women in our care." The Automation and Robotics, Information Technology, and Web and Graphic Design programs are part of a larger effort by UDC and Davis Tech to provide incarcerated individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed upon their release. By partnering with educational institutions like Davis Tech, UDC is able to offer a wide range of vocational training and educational programs during incarceration. “For 13 years, Davis Technical College has enjoyed its partnership with the Department of Corrections to offer technical education to individuals who are incarcerated, giving them a running start toward success after their release. We had long hoped to add more training options for women, which the new prison has made possible,” said Darin Brush, president of Davis Tech. “Now more students there can benefit from short-term training that leads directly to high-demand careers in our community, which helps all of us.”...

All four sections of the Ironwood housing unit at Central Utah Correctional Facility recently participated in a cadence competition. The concept: See who can create and perform a military-style rhythm that echoes the positive message of the therapeutic program the incarcerated individuals participate in. Capt. Jennifer Mullins, who supervises the units at Ironwood, said it was those in the program who came up the idea. “They pitched it to the section, they all worked together to make it happen,” she said. “It helps them take pride in what they are doing.” Ironwood is set up as a therapeutic community, where inmates work on a highly structured treatment plan for 12 months or more. The program’s therapeutic design intentionally uses a positive peer culture and environment, where high standards, morals of “right living” and pro-social core values are reinforced with privileges, rewards and recognition. Alfredo Lolani, who was one of those who came up with the idea for the competition, noted that getting everyone onboard “wasn’t an easy task.” “We’re trying to build some solidarity,” he said. “We’re trying to show these guys another way. This brings everyone together. It a challenge to show themselves.” The sections created the acronym PREVAIL (People Recovering Every Value Available In Life) and used it in the presentations. For Steve Smith, the competition was fun. Being part of Ironwood community, though, it the big thing. “This is the most energized thing I’ve been able to do in this institution,” he said of the program. “I’m here for the next man, he’s here for me. “This is the happiest I’ve been since I’ve been incarcerated.” You can view the video here....

The Utah Department of Corrections is collaborating with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, the Salt Lake County Health Department, and the Utah Department of Health and Human Services to continue to implement preventive measures after detecting a West Nile virus-positive mosquito pool at the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) in Salt Lake City. "While this is considered routine detection and fairly common this time of year, our top priority is to protect both our staff and the incarcerated population from mosquito bites," said Brian Redd, executive director for the Utah Department of Corrections. "We are committed to education and prevention, providing free and accessible repellent. We're grateful for the strong collaboration with health and abatement officials, as well as for the funding received from the legislature last year, which enables us to effectively manage the mosquito population at USCF." Both incarcerated individuals and staff have been advised to take specific preventive measures for their safety. Mosquito repellent is accessible throughout the facilities, with monitoring by correctional staff. For those in restricted units, repellent will be provided during transitions to recreation yards. UDC is encouraging staff and incarcerated individuals to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, and close-toed shoes to minimize the risk of mosquito bites. Medical personnel at the prison will be monitoring staff and inmates for symptoms of West Nile virus. “Our medical teams at the prison will be closely watching for signs of the virus and be prepared if there is an infection,” said Dr. Michelle Hofmann, executive medical director for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, which now oversees medical services at the state prisons. Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus are most active 30 minutes before sunset, one hour after sunset, and one hour after sunrise. Heightened vigilance has been advised during these peak times. “While we are not seeing an immediate threat from this early detection, given the prison’s close proximity to the mosquito habitat and potentially infected mosquitoes, we want to ensure that everyone continues to be vigilant,” said Dr. Ary Faraji with SLCMAD. “We truly appreciate UDC’s collaborative efforts over the past year, and we will continue our surveillance and control measures at the prison and direct coordination with stakeholders.” UDC has been coordinating closely with SLCMAD since the move to the new correctional facility in July 2022. One of the cornerstone measures implemented this year is larviciding. This involves treating water bodies with specialized insecticides to kill mosquito larvae before they mature. UDC staff have been trained by SLCMAD in carrying out this process, particularly focusing on storm drains throughout the facility. In addition to larviciding, SLCMAD has also set up mosquito traps on the grounds to monitor and control the adult mosquito population. SLCMAD is also identifying mosquito species and potential larval habitats. One effective strategy has been the elimination of standing water sources, such as puddles, ponds, and drainage areas, which are potential larval habitats for mosquitoes. You can learn more about the collaboration between UDC and SLCMAD here: https://corrections.utah.gov/2023/04/26/udc-provides-update-on-mosquito-abatement-efforts-at-uscf/ You can learn more about the West Nile virus here: https://epi.utah.gov/west-nile-virus/ Listen to our podcast with SLCMAD concerning mitigation efforts at USCF: https://youtu.be/X4n49Q9mnj0?si=H13YeqG3oCLwsDJg...

15 incarcerated individuals were involved in an altercation at the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) in Gunnison on Monday evening with five individuals being taken to a local hospital by ambulance to assessed and treated. Preliminary investigations indicate that the altercation may have been gang-related and weapons were involved. To ensure the safety and security of everyone involved, the Utah Department of Corrections has initiated a temporary lockdown at CUCF and the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) in Salt Lake City. During this time, incarcerated individuals will be restricted to their assigned cells and dormitories, with limited movement permitted until a further review is completed. The identities of the individuals involved in the incident are not being released at this time. More information will be available after an investigation is completed. CUCF is located in Gunnison and houses approximately 1,750 incarcerated males. USCF is located in Salt Lake City, and houses approximately 2,200 incarcerated male and 400 female individuals....