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Nearly 2 dozen inmates died in Utah prisons in 2017

September 17, 2018

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — The number of deaths in Utah prisons last year was only down slightly from 2016, and two of them were drug-related, according to new report by the state.

A review by the state Department of Corrections and mandated by lawmakers shows 20 inmates died last year. The report was obtained through a public records request by the Standard-Examiner in Ogden.

One 88-year-old male inmate died in a prison infirmary of an accidental overdose of Tylenol, according to the report. The other drug-related death was a 65-year-old man who was found dead in his cell after overdosing on methamphetamine.

Lawmakers in recent years have called for close examination of deaths of those incarcerated. In 2016, there were 25 deaths in jails — a record high for the state. That same year, 21 inmates in the state prison system died, said Kaitlin Felsted of the Department of Corrections.

There were more than 6,400 inmates in the Utah prison system as of 2017, the Vera Institute of Justice reported, an increase of 4.9 percent from 2016.

The state Legislature passed a bill in March requiring county jails and state prisons to report the previous year’s in-custody deaths by Aug. 1. The measure also mandates officials list procedures for how the prison system handles inmates who have overdosed or are in withdrawal.

State Sen. Todd Weiler, of Woods Cross, sponsored the legislation. The goal is to help lawmakers get a sense of inmate safety and health care in case more legislation is needed, Weiler said.

Half of the other 2017 deaths, which range in age from 24 to 89, were attributed to illness. Seven died from heart disease and four from cancer. In two cases, the inmates died by suicide. One was from natural causes. One death remains under investigation.

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Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

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