State corrections officials can't start double-bunking prisoners at the Utah State Prison while a 2-year-old legal challenge is still tied up in the courts.
That was U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce's decision Friday, after an attorney hired by the state, Allan Larson, argued that a temporary restraining order had expired.Brian Barnard, an attorney representing the American Civil Liberties Union, said if an injunction had expired it was an oversight. "Corrections tried to pull a fast one again," said Michelle Parish, director of the ACLU. She termed the state's motion "frivolous" and costly for taxpayers.
Larson argued the state will save money by not building new facilities if prisoners are housed together in existing cells. The prison population keeps increasing, and even the new state prison in Gunnison is filling rapidly.
But the ACLU contends that putting two prisoners in closet-sized cells designed for one is cruel and unusual punishment, violating Eighth Amendment rights.
Boyce's decision Friday will maintain the status quo by continuing the ban on doubling up inmates until he hands down a ruling on the lawsuit.
Boyce said he wants to examine the extensive evidence offered over six days of testimony "carefully and dispassionately," and won't be rushed by the state's pressure to begin double-bunking.