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ACLU TRIES TO BAR PRISON DOUBLE-BUNKING

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The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the U.S. magistrate to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the Utah Department of Corrections from implementing double-bunking in a section of the Utah State Prison.

Michelle Parish-Pixler, acting director of the ACLU's Utah chapter, objects to the fact that the state prison plans to put two inmates in a cell "the size of a bathroom."She said double-bunking is fine in a larger cell, but the cells in the Wasatch Unit, where the prison hopes to double up inmates, range in size from 40 to 70 square feet. A previous 10th Circuit Court ruling, Ramos vs. Lamm, requires each cell to have at least 60 square feet per inmate.

The ACLU decided to take action after it received a letter from more than 180 inmates claiming they were coerced into signing a waiver saying they wouldn't object to double-bunking.

State corrections officials were not available for comment Tuesday morning.

Parish-Pixler said the ACLU asked for a temporary restraining order so conditions at the prison could be investigated to find if double-bunking was feasible or necessary. U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce was expected to rule on the request sometime Tuesday.

The ACLU contends that violence increases when two inmates are housed in a small space. "The people are there to be punished, but they're still human. They still deserve humane conditions," Parish-Pixler said.

Additionally, she said the prison isn't double-bunking because of overcrowding, but rather to save money - a reason she said is unacceptable in view of the resulting inhumane conditions.