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State Will Release Secret Jail Standards After Media, Civil Liberties Groups Push Back


The Utah Department of Corrections says it will write new standards for safety and operations at state prisons and county jails — and those standards will be made available to the public. The announcement Friday came after media and civil rights groups had challenged their confidentiality.

It all started when media outlets, including KUER, civil rights groups and families of inmates who died behind bars came forward and started asking this question: How is it that Utah leads the nation in the number of people who die while locked up in county jails? But the standards that guide how facilities are maintained and how inmates are cared for are kept private. A corrections consultant, named Gary DeLand claims to have a copyright on the rules.

Now Rollin Cook, Utah’s prison boss, says the state will collaborate with the Utah Sheriff’s Association to write new standards. And they’ll be public.

“The one thing that we’ve tried to do from the department of corrections point of view is to remain as transparent as possible,” Cook says. “And this gives us that opportunity to build some standards that can be transparent and available to the community.”

Cook says a commission will write the standards over the next year. The Utah Sheriff’s Association has also agreed to release portions of the existing standards online in the coming days. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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