A Weber County Jail inmate who is a potential witness in a gang case is being kept in isolation.
That's because rival gang members have been trying to prevent him from testifying, creating issues for jailers trying to house gang members.
"He's been assaulted twice while he's been incarcerated here," Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Dale Bridges said Tuesday. "They want to shut him up."
Rival gangs are a problem for many correctional facilities across Utah as they try to segregate inmates to keep turf wars on the streets from moving behind bars.
Weber County sheriff's deputies would not reveal many details about the inmate who was recently injured because of the risk of identifying a gang member who is now considered a target. Deputies would only confirm that he was cut in this latest assault, although his injury was not life-threatening. The inmate is now being housed in administrative segregation, away from others.
The issues involved with incarcerating gang members are not new, authorities say.
"As they arrest them out on the street, we get to deal with them in here," Bridges said. "The fact that they're locked up doesn't create a situation where they're not harmful anymore."
To combat the issue, Weber County Sheriff's deputies said they take steps to keep the various gangs separated within their 888-bed jail.
"It involves classification, behavior and threat risks," Weber County Sheriff's Capt. Klint Anderson said Tuesday.
The Weber County Jail documents affiliations, tattoos and other gang identifiers that help dictate where in the jail an inmate will be housed. Similar measures are taken in other jails and the Utah State Prison.
"We have about 1,300 validated gang members," said Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford. "All different types and gangs. We have two housing units that house gang members."
The prison limits how many members of a particular gang are allowed out of their cells at a time. Still, Ford said, the prison has about one or two incidents a week involving rival gang members, mostly small fights.
Intelligence gathered inside the prison, where many gang members begin recruiting others, is passed on to police agencies that try to keep each other appraised of gang activities, inside and outside of jails."These inmates that get to that level of classification are still gang members," Bridges said. "They're still sworn enemies to each other no matter where they're at."
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