State prison inmates at the Iron County Correctional Facility in Cedar City broke a weekend hunger strike with a Monday morning breakfast of waffles, oatmeal and oranges.
Jimmie Stewart, director of the facility, said 41 inmates staged the weekend fast to protest two new policies, one regulating inmates' outgoing telephone calls and another banning cigarette smoking after March 1."I'm staying with both policies," Stewart said.
Stewart said he listened to inmates' concerns at a Sunday evening meeting, during which the prisoners voted to resume eating. He said a handful of inmates led the strike and pressured others to go without seven weekend meals.
"They've been peaceful about the whole thing, and I appreciate that," he said. "They probably wanted to make a statement by this, and they've made their statement."
The new policy governing telephone use grew out of complaints that prison employees and inmates' families were receiving a number of unwanted phone calls from prisoners. Now, inmates will be able to place local calls only if they call collect. "People that they were calling had no opportunity to decide whether they wanted to take the call or not," Stewart said.
Neither policy change is unique in the state prison system. A no-smoking policy for jails is in accordance with Utah's Clean Indoor Air Act, Stewart said. The Davis County Jail was the first to become smoke-free when cigarettes were banned in September 1987.
Dave Franchina, spokesman for the State Department of Corrections, said both policies are common changes occurring in prisons nationally.
Smoking is allowed in some areas at the Utah State Prison in Draper but is tightly controlled in accordance with state clean air laws and for security reasons. "It's impossible to have smoking without having fire," Franchina said.
He said the newer buildings at the State Prison have charge-a-call phone systems. Those will be in place throughout the facility as older phones are replaced.
Stewart said he thought it would be easier to introduce the new no-smoking policy when the jail was under its 176-bed capacity.
The 107 county jail prisoners also housed in the Iron County facility didn't go along with the food strike.
"This is a county jail," Stewart said. "Under the inmate placement program, they (inmates) are required to abide by the rules and regulations of the particular facility that they are placed in."
The strike didn't disrupt the jail's routine, Stewart said.
"We prepared the meals, and we offered the meals. It didn't change what we did."