An evaluation of the medical care provided to inmates at the Utah State Prison may be released this week, even though the head of the Department of Corrections contends "bad press" about the report has led to the resignations of five prison medical employees.
In an interview Monday, Department of Corrections Executive Director Gary DeLand would not name the five employees he said submitted letters of resignation after local news media reported last week that the evaluation sought by the American Civil Liberties Union has been completed.The news reports contained little detail about the evaluation, beyond a recommendation that a full-time doctor be hired to replace the three part-time doctors serving inmates, since neither the Department of Corrections nor the ACLU would release a copy of it or discuss it except in general terms.
Several past incidents of alleged negligence by medical department employees were also reported by the media, including a pending ACLU lawsuit against the prison on behalf of the mother of an inmate who died in October 1983 after initially being denied medical treatment.
That "bad press," DeLand said, combined with the ability to make more money elsewhere, lead to the resignations of the five employees. Among them, he said, were the acting director of the medical department, who is leaving for a better-paying job in Minnesota, and four staff members.
Besides their frustration with the media, DeLand said the group also apparently expressed dissatisfaction with the way Corrections dealt with the media. "They felt we didn't back them up enough in terms of that report," he said.
Corrections issued a brief press release last week indicating the unspecified recommendations in the report are being reviewed. A Corrections spokesman said at the time that the study is considered confidential under state law and cannot be released.
But DeLand said Monday he may release all or part of the report this week, once the review of the recommendations is completed. The report, done by a Los Angeles consultant, was delivered to Corrections more than a month ago.
"Nobody's trying to duck the report. Nobody's trying to duck any responsibility," he said. However, DeLand said releasing reviews of Corrections programs can embarrass the employees whose work is being evaluated and hinder efforts to improve their performance.
The ACLU, which had threatened a lawsuit last year after receiving numerous complaints of prisoner mistreatment, received a copy of the report after it had been determined not to contain litigious information, he said.
"What's inside this report are not things that get people sued," DeLand said, having dismissed the threat of a lawsuit as "laughable" and "simply garbage."
DeLand said he and the state attorney general's office have differing opinions on the chances of the ACLU winning a lawsuit against the prison system. "The AG's office tends to be overly cautious," he said."They don't know in great detail what goes on out here."
Assistant Attorney General Stuart Hinckley said last week he will advise Corrections to keep the report confidential because of the threatened lawsuit. He said the report is the result of an attempt to keep the state out of court over the complaints.