CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

How staffing shortages impact the Utah State Prison

Jan 19, 2024, 12:02 PM | Updated: Jan 22, 2024, 12:25 pm

The fencing that surrounds the Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City is pictured on Fr...

The fencing that surrounds the Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City is pictured on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Prison is facing staffing issues and some say it creates dangerous situations for its officers. The officers are heavily outnumbered by the increasing number of prisoners. 

According to a recent audit, recruiting and retaining officers is one of the biggest problems. Auditor Brian Dean spoke about these issues in a committee meeting.

He said the lack of officers is concerning.

“We’ve also seen an increasing prison population. And so these things converging is actually … creating an unsafe environment,” said Dean.

The audit found one of the largest issues is that employees at the Utah Department of Corrections do not trust their leadership.

In a cultural survey given to all correctional employees, Dean said the findings revealed a negative work culture and atmosphere.

Dean said 60% of those who took the survey disagree or strongly disagree that the organization has a positive culture. 

To increase recruitment and retention numbers and help with this negativity, the auditors suggested several steps including leadership training and employee town halls.

Additionally, Dean said solutions to help officers included upgrading units, more cameras, mandatory overtime reduction, and direct overtime compensation.

Answers to audit concerns

Director Brian Redd of the Department of Corrections explained that the Utah State Prison is doing better than the audit made the prison seem.

Redd said the main priority is safety at the prison.

He noted that there has been core staffing added to the Antelope (maximum security) and Currant (mental health) units. As well as prioritization in crisis intervention training for core Antelope and Currant staff.

“Now we have staff that is consistent in those areas and will understand the population, who’s there,” Redd said. “There will be a stronger relationship between staff and the incarcerated which creates predictability. We’re already hearing good feedback from all that this is going to help.”

Also stated was how the prison has been tracking staff assaults that have been trending downward for the last several months.

“We’re seeing now that we’re retaining people rather than losing them like we were in 2021 and 22.”
 
Redd said the prison projects its FTEs will be filled within around 24 months if conditions remain the same based on hiring and attrition rates.
 
Redd stated that the prison will be making progress on the 14 recommendations mentioned in the audit as well.

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How staffing shortages impact the Utah State Prison