Utah Corrections offers more details on recent assaults against officers

Feb 7, 2023, 4:55 PM | Updated: 8:30 pm
The Utah Department of Corrections has provided more details after three separate assaults on priso...
FILE: Maximum security visitation rooms, where prisoners can talk to visitors through a window, are pictured in the new Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Corrections has provided more details after three separate assaults on prison officers this year. The assaults took place on Jan. 21, Jan. 30, and Feb. 4 in the facility’s maximum security area.

In each case, according to Prison Operations Director Dan Chestnut, the prisoners were “determined and sought opportunities to carry out these acts.”

Details of the three assaults on corrections officers

Chestnut said the first assault on a corrections officer happened on Jan. 21 by an incarcerated person in a section of the Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City that houses people with mental illness.

Chestnut said the second assault, on Jan. 30, happened in a facility that houses the most serious behavioral issues. A corrections officer was assaulted while preparing the section for dinner.

The third assault on a corrections officer, on Feb. 4, also happened while the officer was preparing the unit for dinner. In this instance, Chestnut said an individual refused to return to his cell.

“Let me be clear, staff assaults are not acceptable ever,” Chestnut said. “Each of these assaults rests directly with the individual who carried them out.” 

Chestnut said that each of the officers who were assaulted was “recovering well.”  

How did the assaults at the Utah Department of Corrections happen?

Chestnut wasn’t able to go into much detail when asked how the assaults could happen.

“…Correctional environments do carry inherent risks,” he said. “Because of this, we cannot compromise our security efforts. Therefore, it’s difficult to go into too much detail concerning our incidents or safety measures.”

However, Chestnut did say that the department has reviewed its communication systems as well as security measures. The building housing the prisoners is new and was opened in mid-2022.

And KSL.com reports that the new facility incorporates “the direct supervision model,” which requires more staffing than the previous prison in Draper did.

Are there enough employees at the Utah prison?

Are there enough guards at the Utah State Prison? Chestnut didn’t answer that question directly, but he did say that staffing is a top priority for the agency.

And he admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as existing employees “aging out” of the system, are issues they are dealing with.

“We’re actively recruiting and in fact, lately have seen an increase in staff and individuals who are applying to become correctional officers. And so we’re, we’re excited about that,” he said.

Chestnut said that in order to be fully staffed, the Utah State Correctional Facility needs to hire over 300 people.

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Utah Corrections offers more details on recent assaults against officers