Not Enough Workers, Too Many Inmates

Not Enough Workers, Too Many Inmates

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Samantha Hayes ReportingThe Utah State Prison is nearing a record number of inmates. The prison is close to maximum capacity and that's only part of the problem.

The number of offenders is swelling and they are running out of places to house them inside the prison. And the prison is dealing with an extremely high turnover rate; many workers are retiring and others are leaving for higher paying law enforcement jobs.

As of today there are 6,390 inmates. The fire marshal has given the prison permission to temporarily use bunk beds in the dormitory buildings where many inmates sleep in one room. County jails and two facilities under construction are also expected to ease overflow, but the crowding is causing problems among inmates.

Jack Ford/Department of Corrections: "It's not uncommon. We have two inmates getting in a fight, or one inmate gets mad and sticks a pillow in the toilet and floods a whole section."

Coupled with that problem, the prison reports losing 87 employees this year to early retirement and 150 more to other agencies. That's why the Governor wants to allocate 74 million to raise the salaries of state employees, including correctional officers.

The prison is paying more than twice the overtime this year than last. So far, fiscal year 2006 cost Utahns $853,727. 2005 cost $403,456.

Sgt. Nathan Hansen: "It is very difficult to fill posts. It's stressful working a normal 80 hours every two weeks. There is a lot of staff working up to 48 hours extra during that time. It puts pressure on family life. They get burned out working here. It wears on them, they need breaks."

Some weeks, Sargeant Nathan Hansen probably sees the inside of the Utah State Prison more than he sees his own family. He admits the overtime pay is nice, especially to make ends meet this time of year.

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