It's difficult to understand why state officials have shown so much reluctance about releasing the results of an evaluation of medical care at the Utah State Prison - a study completed more than a month ago.

The audit was undertaken earlier this year - by an out-of-state consultant - after a rash of complaints by inmates and others about the quality of medical care at the prison, and after a threatened class-action lawsuit by the ACLU.Gary DeLand, executive director of the Department of Corrections, has run hot and cold on the issue of releasing the study, saying on one hand that it is confidential and cannot be released, yet also saying that he will make a decision this week on releasing "all or part" of the report.

DeLand insists there is nothing in the report to provide ammunition for any legal action. Yet Assistant Attorney General Stuart Hinckley said he will advise Corrections to keep the study confidential because of threatened lawsuits.

However, keeping the report confidential because of potential legal problems makes no sense. A copy of the report has already been given to a private group, the ACLU - the very body most likely to file a lawsuit. Left in the dark are the taxpayers who financed the study.

The ACLU says it wants to see what will be done to carry out recommendations in the report. What recommendations? That is exactly what the public hasn't been told.

The story put out by the attorney general's office is that the study was started after a reported "deal" between Corrections and the ACLU, in which the ACLU would hold off on a class action lawsuit in exchange for a copy of the study after it was completed.

DeLand says making results of an internal audit public could embarrass people whose work is being evaluated and could lead to non-cooperation by essential employees in any such studies in the future.

He has a point, but surely personnel evaluations can be excluded from any public report, while specific recommendations are outlined in detail. It may be there is nothing seriously wrong in prison medical procedures and that what needs to be done to improve the program is minor. Or there may be recommendations for some extensive and expensive changes.

Until the report is released, how can the public know? There is no reason to keep the lid on any longer.