In the days following Curtis Allgier's brazen escape from a medical clinic and the slaying of a corrections officer, Julie Mitchell had to work around a SWAT team.
Instead of transporting inmates to University Hospital's South Valley Dialysis Center, Mitchell now comes here to the Olympus facility to give dialysis treatments to inmates.
"I feel a lot more safer here," she said Friday. "There's always somebody coming in."
The Utah State Prison has cleared out an old laundry room to offer hemodialysis treatment for inmates in end stage kidney failure. The Utah Department of Corrections says it eliminates the need to transport inmates from the prison, saving money and ensuring public safety.
"We no longer have to transport five inmates, three times a week for several hours out into the community," said Dr. Richard Garden, the prison's clinical director. "There's costs involved with that in addition to public safety issues. There's two officers, add the car, add the gas, etc."
The inmates undergoing the dialysis seem happy with it.
"I like it better here," George Putnam said Thursday. "'Cause when you'd go out to South Valley, you'd have to get up earlier and you'd have to go through transportation, strip searchin', all kinds of stuff like that. When you're there, both our legs were cuffed, handcuffs, you'd have a chain wrapped around your waist."
Putnam laid back, his ankle shackled to the chair and tubes filtering his blood going in and out of his arm. Next to him, the hemodialysis machine hummed quietly.
Putnam, 47, who calls himself a "lifer," has been in the prison for 23 years for numerous felony convictions. He was diagnosed in the 1994 with kidney problems and has been undergoing dialysis for the past two years.
"It's saved my life," he said.
Garden said the prison plans to expand other medical services, by providing "telemedicine" over a video hook-up.
"We just recently were told the obstetrics/gynecology would provide that resource to us," he said, adding that inmates would still be transported for urgent care and surgery.
Medical specialists from the University Hospital network also come out to the prison to treat inmates.
The Utah Department of Corrections overhauled its inmate transportation policies after Allgier, 28, escaped from the University of Utah's orthopaedic clinic in June 2007. Corrections officer Stephen Anderson was killed while trying to prevent the escape.
Allgier, who is now facing capital murder charges in connection with the escape and slaying, was undergoing an MRI at the clinic."We don't have an MRI machine and that was the issue," said Garden. "We are actually working on getting a mobile MRI unit to come out."
E-mail: [email protected]