State investigators revealed 20 prisoners died in Utah detention facilities last year. Many more died in 2016. Reports done at the instigation of lawmakers.
The Utah State Department of Corrections revealed 20 inmates died in state prisons in 2017. The Department of Corrections made the disclosure after lawmakers compelled them to investigate prison deaths in the state.
The information was classified. It was obtained via a public records request by a reputable media organization in Ogden.
Comparison of year-to-year prison deaths reveals that in 2016, 25 inmates died in Utah jails. While 21 others died in state prison facilities.
According to the Vera Institute of Justice, over 6,400 prison inmates died in Utah state prisons up till 2017. This is an increase of 4.9% from the data for 2016.
In March of this year, state lawmakers mandated the county jails and state prisons to make public the number of incarceration deaths for the year preceding. They were tasked to do this by August 1st.
To this end, lawmakers also compelled correction officials to disclose how they manage inmates with drug problems.
The bill requiring detention facilities to reveal their records of jail and prison deaths was sponsored by State Senator Todd Weiler of Woods Cross. The objective is to help lawmakers understand the health and safety needs of prisoners in the state.
Out of the 20 prison deaths in 2017, two were related to drug abuse. One was an 88-year-old inmate. They accidentally overdosed on Tylenol and died in the prison health unit.
Another was a 65-year-old inmate who died inside his cell. He overdosed on methamphetamine.
Half of the prisoners who lost their lives in 2017 died from illness. Four from heart disease and four from cancer. Two inmates committed suicide. One died from natural causes.
Authorities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of another inmate. All of the deceased prisoners were aged 24 to 89.