The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and the Legal Center for the Handicapped have announced a cooperative effort with the state Department of Corrections to review and evaluate medical facilities, procedures and services at the Utah State Prison.

The ACLU has repeatedly expressed concerns the prison is not meeting constitutional minimums in the delivery of medical and psychiatric care to inmates. Corrections officials have agreed to allow an independent expert to make those evaluations.Bonnie Norman, a registered nurse and part-time consultant for the National Institute of Corrections, has been hired to conduct the evaluation.

Norman evaluated the prison in 1987 and recommended a significant increase in medical personnel. Since that time, additional staff has been hired.

Both sides have agreed that any recommendations which can be implemented in the 1988 budget will be implemented promptly. However, any recommendations that would require an additional appropriation would have to be addressed by the Legislature.

The ACLU and the Legal Center for the Handicapped report they began receiving complaints in late 1987 that inmates were not receiving adequate medical and psychiatric care. Complaints ranged from denial of prescription pain medication following surgery to inordinate delays in getting in to see the prison physician.

Both sides hope the use of independent consultants will avoid lengthy and costly legal battles.