Staff shortage is changing how Utah prisons operate

WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – For months, staff shortages have plagued businesses like restaurants, department stores and even schools. These shortages continue to hit different industries across the state, and now some Utah prisons are feeling the pressure as well.

It’s eerily quiet inside the Weber County Kiesel Prison facility in downtown Ogden. It’s empty inside and it isn’t because crime is at an all-time low. “We’ve lost 35 positions, but when you add the ones in training right now, it really makes 48 positions,” Deputy Chief Nealy Adams told ABC4.

Adams explained that the Weber County Sheriff’s Office opened 14 of its 80 execution posts and 35 of its 185 correction posts, nearly 20 percent of the force. This, he said, has consequences.

On the patrolling side, he explained, “they work with the public and they answer calls for service, but they don’t actively seek out the people who are destroying the crime, so we can be proactive in stopping it. ”

On the correctional side, this also affects the functioning of the prison.

“Right now we are reactionary to the needs of the courts and we house the people who need to be housed,” Adams said. “But we cannot be proactive in helping the inmates and citizens who live in this region to be able to serve their sentence, pay their debt to society and get to a point where they get on with their lives.”

Kiesel Prison had to close almost two years ago by court order to help prevent the COVID-19 slowdown. “We’re ready to reopen the facility and start putting programs in place, but our staff is too low at the moment,” Adams said.

For the moment, all inmates are housed in the prison on the 12e Street to the sheriff’s office. Adams told ABC4 that it looks like this may be the case for a while with only a handful of nominations. However, he said the county is working to change that. Part of their job is to make the salaries of new employees more competitive. He explained, “For that six month training period, they get paid while they leave, they get full pay, full benefits, they are currently working on their retirement, they earn sick leave and vacation time. In order to go to university. and obtain certification.

Deputy Chief Adams said that while all current candidates could be hired, around half of the positions would remain open. With the closure of the Kiesel facility, the county is following protocol established during the pandemic in which many people are arrested and released rather than being jailed until their initial court appearance. There are currently about 300 of these cases in the county.

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