In the Utah state prison system, some stabbings matter more than others.
If you’re dying from stab wounds, your family gets a phone call. Prison officials also call your family if you die.
But if you’re stabbed 30 times and survive, nobody needs to know.
Welcome to Dianna Maestas’ world.
- RELATED: “Ogden man identified by his mother as stabbing victim at Utah State Prison”
At least three inmates jumped Roberto Duran at the state prison in Uinta and gashed him with a homemade weapon about 30 times July 27. Nobody told Maestas that her son had been attacked — she learned about it from her husband, also a state prisoner.
Officially, the Utah Department of Corrections acknowledged only that an inmate was attacked, transported to a local hospital and expected to survive.
“For safety and security reasons, we do not release names of those involved in such incidents. As is standard protocol, we contacted Unified Police Department and briefed them on the situation,” DOC spokeswoman Brooke Adams said in an email to Cathy McKitrick, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner. “In this case, our Law Enforcement Bureau is handling the investigation.”
Withholding the name of an attack victim protects the inmate from additional violence. But withholding information about an attack from the victim’s family serves no legitimate purpose — it primarily keeps an inmate’s family from monitoring his medical care.
Which is clearly what the state intends. According to Adams, the DOC calls family only if 1) the inmate is dying, or 2) the inmate is dead.
In a sense, Maestas was fortunate — she had someone inside the prison system who quickly got word to her about the attack on Duran. But she had to call the prison repeatedly before someone told her Friday about his condition.
Duran, 35, grew up in Ogden and attended Ben Lomond High School. He once belonged to the Ogden Trece gang, Maestas told McKitrick, “but wasn’t claiming them anymore. He wanted to live a free and godly life now.”
She believes Trece members attacked Duran, but she doesn’t know for certain. Nor, as of Friday, did she know anything more about her son’s condition.
Dianna Maestas deserved to know that a vicious attack put her son’s life in danger. She deserves to know his condition. She also deserves to know how the state intends to protect him from another stabbing.
But that won’t happen if the Utah DOC only calls to say your loved one is dead or dying.