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Utah counties record 71 inmate deaths over last 5 years

November 19, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new state report shows that 71 people have died in Utah jails since 2013, with the majority of inmate deaths occurring within a week of being locked up.

The state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice compiled the report — the first time a state agency has tallied the county jail numbers for a single report, The Salt Lake Tribune reported last week.

The report is the result of state legislation last year that called for all counties to report data and policies following a surge in jail deaths.

The report found that about half the inmate deaths were from suicide, and the majority of deaths occurred not long after the inmates were jailed — findings that state legislators honed in on during a Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee hearing.

Republican Rep. Ed Redd said he hopes the data will help lead to policies addressing inmate suicides, noting that they’re often withdrawing from drugs and feel hopeless.

“Let’s evaluate what we can do differently,” Redd said. “They maybe want to be more aggressive in helping people, protecting them in the first couple weeks in jail.”

The report does have gaps in data. All 26 counties with jails reported deaths in 2017, but some counties did not provide figures for prior years. For deaths in 2013 and 2014, 10 counties did not give numbers.

Also, the newspaper’s analysis counted at least two dozen people died in jails in 2016, but the state report only records 16 that year.

In the Utah State Prison, 20 people died while incarcerated last year, according figures submitted to the state. Of those inmates, 15 died of illness, two died from suicide, two died from drug or alcohol intoxication and one was listed as “other/unknown.”

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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