Utah prison officials offer update on 3 officers assaulted by inmates

Dan Chesnut, prison operations director with the Utah Department of Corrections, speaks at a news conference on recent assaults at the Utah State Correctional Facility on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Photo: Utah Department of Corrections/YouTube

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Feb. 7, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — Three Utah Department of Corrections officers are “recovering well” after a series of assaults by inmates over a 15-day period, state prison officials said.

Prison Operations Director Dan Chesnut held a news conference Tuesday via Zoom to discuss the three assaults Jan. 21-Feb. 4 on officers at the Utah State Correctional Facility.

“Let me be clear, staff assaults are not acceptable — ever,” Chesnut said. “Each of these assaults rests directly with the individual who carried them out. As we reviewed these incidents, it’s been apparent that these individuals were determined and sought opportunities to carry out these acts. The individuals involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Chesnut provided few details about the three attacks or resulting actions, saying that information could compromise security efforts.

  • Jan. 21: A correctional officer was assaulted while working in a section of housing for incarcerated individuals with mental illness.
  • Jan. 30: An officer working in the Antelope unit, which houses individuals with serious behavior issues, was assaulted while preparing the area for dinner.
  • On Feb. 4, a sergeant working in the Antelope unit was preparing the area for dinner when they were assaulted by an inmate who refused to return to his cell.

“I know their fellow officers have been reaching out, as well as leadership, to check on their condition, and it appears right now that they’re recovering well,” Chesnut said of the injured officers.

All three incidents were investigated by the Utah Department of Corrections’ Law Enforcement Bureau, though no charges have been announced.

“As with any significant event within our facility, our response is immediate,” Chesnut said. “We have a trained critical incident response team that operates 24/7. We have medical personnel on property at all times who are trained to respond to these types of situations.”

Peer support, a staff chaplain and free counseling services also are available to prison employees, he said.

“The well-being of our staff is of utmost importance,” he said. “When these events happen, there is a significant emotional response as officers assist each other and with courage and strength continue to perform their duties with professionalism.”

Chesnut said actions taken since the assaults include reviewing security measures and communication systems, restructuring movement in certain areas, and reinforcing training in structured housing.

The Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City currently houses 2,613 incarcerated individuals, Chesnut said. The prison currently employs nearly 300 correctional officers, he said.


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