OGDEN (AP) — A Utah lawmaker is planning to introduce a proposal to require county jails and state prisons to submit yearly reports on deaths and how they handle opioids and other medications amid renewed emphasis on inmate fatalities.
Meanwhile, Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson said recently his office has begun a review of policies and procedures after several deaths in the summer of 2016. Those, along with a fatal injury suffered by an inmate in December, triggered heavy public scrutiny of jails around the state.
"When all of this started happening, we looked at what was going on," Richardson said. "And with our changes, this year, it stopped."
Changes include more elaborate specifications and requirements during the process of screening people upon arrival at the jail; additional training and procedural direction for nurses and jailers; and a policy section warning personnel against any "deliberate indifference" to the health and safety of inmates, the Standard-Examiner reported.
Emergency medical technician training is being given to some jailers, so first-line EMT service will be on hand during emergencies, Richardson said. And outside EMTs and ambulance crews dispatched to the jail during medical emergencies will be given quicker access through jail security, he said.
The chairman of the Utah Senate Judiciary Committee said he is working on a bill that would require county jails and the state's prisons to submit annual reports on jail deaths, the handling of opioid drugs, and lists of medications that jails refuse to administer.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said in a Friday interview he will introduce a bill that would require county jails and state prisons to submit to the executive branch and the Legislature annual reports of deaths behind bars. Correctional entities send similar reports to the federal government already, “but we have to wait two years to see it, so that’s silly.”
“We are also interested in what policies there are on opioids,” Weiler said, “and we’re also interested in a list of any prescription drugs they’re refusing to administer to inmates.”Comment on this story
Investigators of the death of Heather Miller, 28, who died of a ruptured spleen suffered in the jail Dec. 21, 2016, reported numerous shortcomings in the response. A separate Weber County investigation determined the Davis jail spoiled the crime scene before detectives could see it.
"We've made a lot of adjustments and named some new captains," including a new jail commander in January, Richardson said.
Records gathered by the Standard-Examiner state at least 24 deaths involving Utah jails occurred in 2016, a 17-year high.