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ACLU Supports Utah Prison Inmates on Hunger Strike

Utah Department of Corrections

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is supporting a group of state inmates currently on hunger strike.

42 inmates housed in a maximum security area at the state prison in Draper have been refusing to eat since breakfast Friday, according to the Utah Department of Corrections. John Mejia, the legal director for the ACLU of Utah says they have been receiving letters from inmates complaining of too much time in confinement, poor living conditions, and inadequate access to rehabilitative programs.

“To have such a high volume of complaints in such a short period of time is unusual,” Mejia says. “I think you can only live in those conditions for so long before it becomes unlivable.”

Mejia says these prisoners are locked in their cells with one cellmate for 47 hours at a time, being allowed out only three times a week for about an hour, and only with their cellmate. Inmates complained of social and psychological disorders as a result of this type of confinement. Mejia says the ACLU wants to see the prison change its restrictive housing policies. 

“I think that the urgency of the situation is really highlighted now, and that we would support making these changes as quickly as possible to improve the condition that these folks are living under,” Mejia says.

The Utah Department of Corrections declined an interview, and would not share the letter they received from the prisoners. In a statement, spokesperson Brooke Adams says the striking inmates are documented gang members, and among the demands is the relocation of gang leaders. The statement says the department has been in the process of reviewing and revising some of the issues raised in the letter, such as inmate classification and out-of-cell time in maximum-security areas.

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