After two inmates attempted to escape and another two were reportedly intoxicated, the Utah Department of Corrections has yanked its highway cleanup crews off the roads.
"We have stopped the road crews," state Corrections spokesman Jack Ford confirmed Thursday. "We're probably going to re-evaluate it."
Corrections officials put a halt to the program earlier this week, after a pair of recent incidents. Ford said two inmates attempted to escape from a road crew last week but were quickly apprehended. Another pair of inmates came back from a crew and were found to be intoxicated.
"At that time we just said, 'Let's stop the road crews,"' Ford said.
About 30 inmates from the Draper and Gunnison prisons are used to pick up litter along the highways. To be on a road crew, a typical inmate already has a parole date and is usually six to eight months away from being released. They are also considered minimum security inmates with clean urinalysis tests and no write-ups for bad behavior.
"It's kind of a positive reward system," Ford said, adding that the inmates earn a little money for their work.
The Department of Corrections contracts with the Utah Department of Transportation for the prison cleanup crews. UDOT said it pays about $600 per day per crew. The money covers inmates' salaries, the officers who oversee them, transportation and other incidentals.
It is unknown when or if the road crews will be back.
"We are going to look at it and see if there's a better way to be able to continue to support the Department of Transportation and help the inmates before they leave, and at the same time make it a more secure thing," Ford said.
Corrections has come under fire recently for a series of high-profile incidents:
• Last month, two convicted murderers escaped from the medium-security Daggett County Jail. Danny Gallegos and Juan Diaz-Arevalo hid out in the wilderness along the Utah-Wyoming border before tying up a 79-year-old man and stealing his SUV. After a chase that ended in Rock Springs, Wyo., the 49-year-old Gallegos was shot by police. Diaz-Arevalo, 27, was tackled and taken into custody.
Both men are now back in prison. Security at the Daggett County Jail and other county-run jails with corrections contracts is being reviewed.
• In June, police said white supremacist gang member Curtis Allgier overpowered corrections officer Stephen Anderson, 60, shooting and killing him during an escape from the University of Utah's orthopaedic clinic. Allgier was captured after a wild chase across the Salt Lake Valley and a confrontation inside an Arby's restaurant on Redwood Road.
• In May, Corrections halted a data-entry program at the Utah State Prison after claims were made that inmates had access to personal information. The inmates were working under a prison contract with the state health department in a program that divided the information and prevented inmates from having access to a pencil or pen to write anything down.
Corrections officials have said they have no evidence that any person's personal information was ever compromised.All of these incidents have been ordered reviewed by newly appointed Corrections chief Tom Patterson, who took over earlier this year after a legislative audit skewered the department for some of its policies and practices.
Contributing: Nicole Warburton
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