Forgotten Salt Lake County inmate abandoned for hours in courthouse holding cell

Photo: Gephardt Daily

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 6, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — The Salt Lake County jail is reviewing security procedures after a forgotten inmate was left alone — locked up until the wee hours of the morning in an otherwise empty West Jordan court house holding cell complex.

Justin Hoyal, Chief Deputy for the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office told Gephardt Daily the inmate had been shuttled from the Salt Lake County jail to West Jordan during the day Monday where he was scheduled for a routine hearing. After his appearance, the inmate was taken to a holding cell behind the judge’s chambers where he was promptly forgotten.

Hoyal said it wasn’t until early Tuesday morning that guards at the main jail realized something was wrong.

“It was just after midnight the jail realized an inmate had not come back from court and immediately implemented their emergency procedures for tracking down a missing prisoner,” Hoyal said. “That procedure included a search of the jail as part of an investigation to determine where this inmate might be. That investigation ultimately led them back to the West Jordan court house where the inmate was found in the holding cell about 3:30 a.m.” 

Hoyal said the inmate appeared to be “fine” despite being left alone for several hours after the courthouse closed. He was transported back to the main jail facility where he was fed and returned to his cell.

Hoyal said 200 to 300 prisoners are transported to court each weekday from the Salt Lake County jail and it was not unusual for prisoners to return from court later in the evening, especially when cases were being deliberated by juries into the night.

“It is a very unfortunate situation. It’s very unfortunate that it happened and we are reviewing our policies and practices to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Hoyal said. “Ultimately it’s the public safety that were looking out for. I’m referring to everybody, including the inmate in the holding cell …. Anybody who’s in there, we’re responsible for their safety.”


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