Best of September Photos 20

A look inside Weber County Jail on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — Three organizations filed an emergency petition with the Utah Supreme Court demanding that jails and prisons increase inmate releases due to coronavirus infection dangers.

The demand, called a petition for extraordinary relief, was filed late Wednesday afternoon by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, the Disability Law Center and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

In a press release, the groups said deeper releases are vital to “avoid unnecessarily heightened risks of serious harm from the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring safety for our communities outside of correctional facilities.”

“We bring this case to protect the lives and safety of all people in Utah, incarcerated and non-incarcerated alike,” ACLU legal director John Mejia said in the release. “This pandemic presents unprecedented risks and poses special danger to people in prisons and jails.

“While we appreciate the steps that state, county, and local authorities are taking to increase safety at correctional facilities, we bring this lawsuit because we think that the measures now being taken do not match the enormity and urgency of the problem we face,” he said.

Davis and Weber County jail officials recently have implemented steps to limit coronavirus risks in the jails. Actions include medical testing of new inmates and corrections staff, preparation of quarantine areas, and early releases of inmates for good behavior and other reasons.

The Davis County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday a corrections employee had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been sent home to quarantine. A few other employees were sent home as a precaution.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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