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Mosquitoes and medication shortages plague new Utah State Correctional Facility, say inmates

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Briana Scroggins
/
Special to KUER
The new Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City, June 6, 2022.

Utah’s billion-dollar state correctional facility opened in July and families of inmates are already speaking out about problems at the new location.

Karen Thompson’s son Eric is at the new facility and is taking prescription medication for severe chronic pain. She said his medication access has been sporadic at best since his transfer, and it’s not just inmates who are affected.

“Those poor med techs, he said they’re as frustrated as anybody,” she said. “They have no answers for the inmates, they upchannel the information to their supervisors and they’re not getting any response back from them.”

Thompson is not alone. KUER spoke with the family of several current inmates and heard complaints ranging from limited access to medication to widespread mosquitoes at the facility, which is located west of the Salt Lake City International Airport on wetlands of the Great Salt Lake.

“In the last six weeks, and four of those weeks have been in the new prison, the Utah Prisoner Advocate Network has received 73 emails related to significant medical concerns and we’ve received dozens of messages and posts to our family Facebook group on top of that,” said Director and Co-founder Molly Prince.

In a written response to KUER’s questions, the Utah Department of Corrections said those issues are due to “glitches” stemming from the transition to a new medical records system and it is working “around the clock” to fix them.

Thompson said her son has also told her medication has been hard to come by for inmates taking psychiatric drugs.

“He said some of these guys have just gone cold turkey, their meds have been cut off,” she said. “They haven’t received any of their psych meds and he said they’re the ones that are just totally suffering.”

The UDC told KUER that urgent medical concerns can be addressed by notifying an on-duty corrections officer. Inmates can also submit a request form to be seen by medical staff or have a prescription filled.

Speaking to reporters at an event commemorating the closure of the old state prison in Draper, UDC Executive Director Brian Nelson said the department is also in serious need of employees.

“We are short on staffing, so we welcome folk to come and join our team who want to be part of a great mission and a great team,” he said. “We could get into numbers, but we’re substantially short-staffed.”

Mosquitoes have been the other main issue this summer. Thompson said bug repellant has not been made available in the prison commissary.

“We’re being told out here that this is available to them, but they have no option to purchase it,” Thompson said. “We feel that repellant should be offered to all staff and incarcerated people without charge.”

The UDC said it is currently working with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District and will soon implement mosquito control measures.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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