SALT LAKE CITY — A new report from the Office of the State Auditor outlines significant shortcomings in the Utah Department of Corrections’ placement of state inmates in local jails.
The report, made public Thursday, also blames the department for sending state inmates to the Daggett County Jail, where state auditors say the agency was unaware of the abuses to those in the jail, which was ultimately closed in 2017.
Auditors scrutinized the department’s Inmate Placement Program, or IPP, a system that places state inmates in local jails rather than one of two state prisons.
The report called the situation at the Daggett County Jail a “significant failure by IPP, as those responsible for monitoring the jail failed to detect any improper or inhumane conduct.”
In February 2017, the Department of Corrections removed all 80 state inmates from the Daggett jail after allegations surfaced regarding the treatment of those in the facility, including assaults, hazing, choking inmates, boxing inmates and forcing them to be bitten by K-9 dogs. Several former jail officials, including former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen, were later charged in connection with torture and abuse that occurred at the jail.
State auditors found that IPP management was “minimally briefed” by the department’s law enforcement bureau. While IPP did institute controls after that briefing — such as increase security inspections and begin verifying jail logs with surveillance video footage — auditors found that “IPP management and staff were unaware of the majority of issues that occurred at the Daggett County Jail.”
After talking with state auditors, the report says, an IPP manager requested a copy of the Daggett jail investigation from the department’s law enforcement bureau. The manager said he should be “checking other jails to ensure the identified issues are not occurring in them,” according to the audit.
The law enforcement bureau denied the request.
In concluding remarks, state auditors said they were “deeply concerned” with the denial, saying the decision limited IPP’s ability to make necessary improvements.
“The UDC Executive Director (Mike Haddon) should ensure this type of limitation never reoccurs,” the audit says.
State auditors said the monitoring of jails that UDC contracts with is “inadequate.” After the fallout from the Daggett County Jail, IPP implemented a handful of changes, but those updates were only limited to security operations in those jails.
“Direct observation methods, such as an inspection, do little to address inmate abuse, the exchange of favors, and improper relationships between jail staff and state inmates,” the report read.
State auditors said IPP only made changes to security standards because they “didn’t understand the deficiencies identified at the Daggett County Jail.”
“Had IPP been aware of all the issues at the Daggett County Jail, IPP would have had the opportunity to implement a broader set of controls,” the report read.
Another observation made by state auditors was that IPP does not adequately track or address the issues that can arise in local jails. The report indicates that for about seven months, from June 2017 to January 2018, an IPP administrator kept a list of security and operational issues that his staff observed in contract jails.
However, for some reason, IPP stopped keeping track of those issues. Auditors learned that the IPP director didn’t know about the list or why it was not being used anymore.
Auditors also shared their concern that the UDC’s own internal audit bureau has not prioritized IPP’s issues as points to correct. Since 2008, the UDC internal auditor bureau (IAB) has conducted two audits of IPP. The audits only dealt with inmate medical co-payments and the “caloric content of lunches provided to inmate work crews.”
“We are concerned that significant events that have occurred over the past decade, including several escapes, inmate abuse, and inappropriate jail staff and inmate relationships, have not triggered an audit or other review of IPP by IAB,” the audit says.
The report also points out that IPP manages about a quarter of all state inmates and operates with a budget of over $31 million.
In response to the audit, UDC Executive Director Mike Haddon said IPP and the department as a whole would be implementing changes. Regarding monitoring of local jails they contract with, Haddon wrote that the UDC will develop and provide training for current monitors of jail contracts. IPP case managers will now also have briefings with commanders at contract jails.
Haddon also indicated that IPP will develop a process to keep track of deficiencies or complaints made at local jails by their staff, as well as a protocol to address those issues.
He said the internal audit bureau is small and its role in years past has not included auditing local jails themselves. However, the UDC would be exploring options for keeping track of and evaluating the jails.
Haddon also confirmed that the UDC law enforcement bureau did not share the Daggett jail report with IPP, saying IPP was “hamstrung in its ability to completely understand what occurred in these events, and, thus, were unable to develop more complete monitoring process adjustments to address specific findings in each investigative report.”
Haddon said the UDC will ensure those types of reports are made available to IPP in the future.
In Northern Utah, every local jail, other than Weber County, has a contract to hold state inmates. Those facilities include the jails in Box Elder, Cache and Davis counties.
Last summer, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office announced it would not be renewing its contract with the UDC to house state inmates.
Jail spokesman Lt. Joshua Marigoni told the Standard-Examiner in June that the move made fiscal sense for the county, as the state pays the county a set amount per inmate per day that was below the jail’s typical cost for an inmate.
In the contract between Weber County and the state, the UDC pays the jail between $52-$64 per inmate per day, depending on which program he or she is a part of. However, Marigoni said the county’s cost to keep a person in jail per day is somewhere between $73 to $76.
Though they no longer house state inmates, the Weber County Jail still holds a contract with the U.S. Marshal’s Service for holding federal detainees.
Weber County owns the largest contract in the state to house federal detainees, according to Marigoni. The U.S. Marshal’s Service pays the county $78 per inmate per day, slightly above what it costs the jail to maintain someone in their custody.