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Health, Science & Environment

Cold temperatures and COVID outbreak worry family members of incarcerated people at Utah State Prison

Utah State Prison Draper Watchtower
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There were 77 active COVID cases at the Timpanogos Women’s Facility as of Tuesday. Some women who are quarantined say there isn’t any heat in their areas.

Cold temperatures and persistent COVID cases at the Utah State Prison have some family members of incarcerated individuals worried about their safety and health.

According to the Utah Department of Corrections, as of Dec. 14, there were 123 active COVID cases at the Utah State Prison in Draper — more than half of them were located in the women’s facility.

Victoria Schoenheide’s cousin — Ambri Cazier — is currently housed at the Timpanogos Facility. Cazier was recently infected with the virus, even though she was vaccinated.

The Utah Department of Corrections said vaccination rates at the Draper prison range from 60-92% depending on the facility.

Schoenheide is concerned prisoners are getting COVID from unvaccinated staff members. Currently UDC doesn’t require vaccines for staff or inmates, though they’ve said it’s highly encouraged.

Schoenheide said her cousin told her there hasn’t been any heating in the area where she’s being quarantined and there’s been a lack of disinfecting supplies for inmates. Other family members have shared similar experiences online.

“She said she is cold, she is freezing and all the girls are crying because it's cold back there and she's not really happy about it,” Schoenheide said. “They are only allowed to have two blankets.”

She said she is concerned that Cazier might get more sick with the cold temperatures. Her worries were only reaffirmed with the recent health care audit released last week that found ‘systemic deficiencies’ in various parts of the prison.

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Schoenheide
Prows submitted a grievance when a plumbers came by her door and left a "biohazard" mess. She said it was there for a couple of hours and there were no bleach bottles to disinfect the area.

Kaitlin Felsted, public information officer for the Utah State Prison, said in an email they resolved the issue the moment it was brought to their attention last week. She said there were concerns about outside doors being propped open which impact the flow of heat in the buildings.

“We've addressed this and asked that doors not be propped or left open for extended periods of time, especially when temperatures are as low as they are this week,” Felsted wrote.

Taecia Prows was recently released in November from the Draper prison. She is still in touch with some of the women there and said she can attest to some of those conditions.

Prows said women aren’t given enough supplies to disinfect their cells or common areas. She said they are given one bottle of bleach to disinfect a whole section which can include up to 36 people. She said when she was there nothing was being sanitized as frequently as it was supposed to be.

Prows said during the winter it can be freezing inside the prison. She said women are only given their uniform and no other supplies like t-shirts, socks or thermals.

“Women don't even have warm clothes if they don't have money or people helping them,” Prows said. “All they're issued is that red uniform … All that stuff has to be bought. It's not provided. When I had COVID in February, they said we wouldn't be charged for the cough syrup that they gave me. But they charged me for everything.”

Felsted said they are following CDC guidelines and providing cleaning supplies and disinfectants. She said confirmed cases of COVID-19 are moved into isolation, whereas individuals who may have been exposed are quarantined.

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