Utah jails targeted for COVID-19 spread

The ACLU of Utah and two other civil rights groups have petitioned the Utah Supreme Court Wednesday for the release more inmates from the state’s jails, claiming COVID-19 could decimate a vulnerable prison population.

The Disability Law Center and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys joined the ACLU in the petition.




The groups claim prison personnel are not capable of handling a COVID-19 outbreak among inmates, which makes inmates especially vulnerable to the virus.

“They cannot protect themselves through social distancing and there is a severe lack of freely accessible hygiene supplies,” the petition said.

One inmate at the Salt Lake County Jail this week tested positive for COVID-19, the first announcement of a case within Utah’s jail and prison system, according to the Desert News.

Roughly 1 in 3 inmates at the jail have been released in recent weeks to free up room at the facility, the Salt Lake County Sheriff said.

The inmate who tested positive for COVID-19, had been tested and held in an isolated cell after showing flu-like symptoms.

Deputies wearing protective equipment transported 51 inmates Thursday who may have been exposed to the virus, the sheriff said. The inmates were given masks, new clothing and new bedsheets.

Judges in Utah have been releasing inmates from jails who are deemed not a risk to the general population.

But the petitioners said jails and prisons are still too crowded and prime spots for a COVID-19 spread.