FARMINGTON — The Davis County Sheriff’s Office has formed an advisory committee to conduct a life safety study in the jail, where 13 people have died in the past decade.
The panel will recommend ways to “alleviate any condition which may contribute unnecessarily to serious illness, injury, or death within the jail, and to identify any physical, procedural, or other changes that may improve the safety and wellbeing of inmates or staff,” the agency said Monday in a news release.
“The committee will conduct a thorough review of significant incidents which have occurred within the Davis County Jail in the past eight to ten years to help identify what, if any, alternative procedures might have a more positive outcome on future incidents,” Sheriff Kelly Sparks said in the release.
“The committee may also review previously published research and conduct studies or surveys within the jail,” he said.
Deaths in the Farmington jail and other Utah lockups surged to a record 27 in 2016, resulting in a state law mandating annual death reporting and a study of drug addiction and withdrawal services offered in the jails.
Sparks was elected last fall, replacing Todd Richardson, who chose not to seek re-election after two four-year terms.
Davis’s jail death total included one in 2010, four in 2013, one in 2015, six in 2016 and one in 2017.
The most recent two are being litigated in civil court, where relatives of the deceased inmates allege the jail was negligent in medical care and thereby caused or contributed to the deaths.
The advisory committee will include a Weber State University criminal justice professor, a retired Davis jail commander, a local doctor and a licensed clinical social worker. Other members currently work in the jail, including medical and corrections staff and a Davis Behavioral Health provider.
The committee will consult other legal and medical experts and interview former jail inmates, the release said.
The study seeks recommendations to “take into account the realities of providing medical care to inmates, many of whom are suffering the effects of drug and/or alcohol addiction, the symptoms of which often mask other more serious medical conditions,” the release said.
County officials also are planning to build a new medical wing at the jail.
In a meeting last month, officials said the proposed new addition would contain 22 cells, and Sparks said a new access point for ambulances would drastically improve emergency response times.
County Clerk-Auditor Curtis Koch said the new space, an addition to the existing jail, would cost $5.5 million to $7.5 million, depending on final plans.