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Report details multiple inmate abuse violations at Daggett jail

By Pat Reavy, KSL  |  Posted May 26th, 2018 @ 11:57am


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SALT LAKE CITY — Sleeping while on duty. Giving inmates food for special favors. Allowing inmates to wash police vehicles. Giving an inmate a Taser to "scare" people.

These were all violations the Utah Department of Corrections discovered when looking into allegations of abuse happening at the Daggett County Jail in Manila, according to the department's final investigative report.

In 2017, the Daggett County Jail was shut down after an investigation uncovered ongoing abuse of inmates that dated back years and included officers illegally using their Tasers on inmates and forcing inmates to act as test dummies to train uncertified police dogs.

Former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen, former Daggett County Sheriff's Lt. Benjamin Lail, of Manila, and former sheriff's deputies Joshua Cox, of Manila, Rodrigo Toledo and Logan Walker were all charged and convicted in various plea deals.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes called it "unbelievably inhumane conduct and a reprehensible miscarriage of justice."

The corrections department pulled all of its inmates out of the jail in February 2017 — approximately 80 people. The revenue from housing those state inmates was something the county relied on heavily. The county — Utah's least populated — typically received between $110,000 and $115,000 each month to house state inmates.

As of Friday, Utah State Prison inmates were still being kept out of the jail.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed a lawsuit against Daggett County on behalf of two former inmates who were abused while incarcerated at the county jail.

The final report from the Utah Department of Corrections regarding its investigation into Daggett County was obtained by the Deseret News through a public records request. The 51-page heavily redacted report goes into further detail about the misbehavior of jail staffers based on interviews with employees and inmates, in addition to physical evidence such as surveillance video and examining the internal memory device on Cox's Taser.

In addition to previously reported violations, such as Cox using a Taser on inmates when it wasn't called for, and using inmates to "train" police K-9s resulting in some of them being bit, the investigation found "numerous policy violations."

Cox, who was one of main focuses of the report, was accused of using a Taser on several inmates, telling them he'd give a soda for anyone who lasted longer than five seconds, the report states. He also was accused of giving an inmate a Taser to "scare" another person.

Former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen is pictured. Jorgensen was charged and convicted last year in a case that alleged misconduct and abuse by staffers at the Daggett County Jail. A new report details what investigators determined happened at the jail. (Photo: Geoff Liesik, KSL TV File)

After the jail staff knew it was being investigated, Cox threatened inmates to keep their mouths shut, according to the report. One person interviewed told investigators that Cox "usually stuck around and expected to be entertained" but on this day left the inmate area after telling inmates not to talk, the report states.

The report also found that corrections officers typically slept during the night shift, which many described as long and boring, according to the report. Typically, two officers would take turns sleeping, the report found.

When they weren't sleeping, the report found that one of the monitors in the jail control room could be switched to view satellite TV and then switched back to the regular monitor before the next shift started.

The inmates "knew that officers watched TV in the control room and that they slept on the night shift," the report found.

"There is a culture among Daggett County Jail staff that sleeping on duty and watching TV on duty are acceptable practices. Some officers appear to lack appropriate staff/offender boundaries. Inmates are given food and special favors for behavior or making items for officers," the report concluded.

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One inmate told investigators he was allowed to hit golf balls after washing law enforcement vehicles, something that is against the rules, according to the report.

Other behavior that raised concern for investigators included allegations of jail staffers throwing pepper balls at each other. Pepper balls are filled with pepper spray and typically used to control suspects in volatile situations.

When interviewed as part of the investigation, Cox claimed the inmates volunteered to have a Taser deployed on them because they were curious as to what it felt like, the report states. As for the dog training, he said "the inmates like to play with the dog" and that it nips at people because it's still a puppy.

Once state inmates were removed from the jail, the Utah Department of Corrections received more anonymous tips and letters that furthered their investigation, the report states.

Pat Reavy, KSL
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