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ACLU of Utah and Disability Law Center File Lawsuit To Make Jail Standards Public

30 May 2018 Published in Newsroom

ACLU of Utah and Disability Law Center File Lawsuit  To Make Jail Standards Public

 

DLC

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May 30, 2018

Salt Lake City | On May 21, 2018 the ACLU of Utah Foundation, Inc. (ACLU of Utah), and the Disability Law Center (DLC), represented by David C. Reymann and Jeremy M. Brodis, filed a lawsuit Utah state court seeking the public release of standards that govern the operation of the Davis County Jail, as well as audit reports assessing the Jail's compliance with the standards.

The lawsuit stems from a series of public records requests and appeals that ended in April with the Utah State Records Committee denying the ACLU of Utah and the DLC access to the records—leaving legal action as their only recourse.

“The fact that these jail standards were purchased with taxpayer money and are being used to operate a county jail staffed by public employees and housing hundreds of Utah residents makes them public records by definition,” said David C. Reymann, attorney at Parr, Brown, Gee & Loveless, P.C. “The county’s excuse that these standards are stored online is not a valid barrier to the public’s right of access.”

The pursuit of Davis County’s jail standards began last year when the ACLU of Utah and the DLC submitted a public records request under the GRAMA laws to Davis County seeking access to the standards, as well as the audits, contracts, and correspondence related to their usage for the past five years. This request was fueled by Utah’s recent and dramatic increase in jail deaths. In 2016, 25 inmates died in Utah jails, including six deaths in Davis County.

“The extraordinary number of deaths in Utah jails in 2016 exposed the truth that we don’t know how county jails are being run, and if they are complying with their own standards,”said Leah Farrell, staff attorney at the ACLU of Utah. “We know the Davis County Jail failed a state audit in 2016, but we don’t know anything more. Jail operations are a black-box and the public deserves a right to know more.”

On December 6, 2017, the records office for Davis County denied the majority of the ACLU of Utah and the DLC’s GRAMA request, claiming the jail standards were owned by former Utah Corrections Director Gary DeLand, and that the county could not make the standards public without breaching its contract with Mr. DeLand. After retiring from running Utah’s prison system, Mr. DeLand drafted and sold jail standards to county jail operators in at least 19 states, according to a December report by KUER.

Davis County’s initial refusal to provide the standards forced the ACLU of Utah and the DLC to submit an administrative appeal first to Davis County (which was denied) and later to the State Records Committee.

After oral arguments on April 12, 2018, the State Records Committee issued an order on April 23 stating that Davis County was not the owner of the records and therefore was not required under GRAMA “to produce the records” to the petitioners. Having exhausted the administrative appeals process, the ACLU of Utah and DLC filed a lawsuit last week to let the courts decide the issue. 

“After years of questions and inquires without adequate answers, we believe that county jails have an obligation to be more transparent,”said Leah Farrell. “We anticipate that the courts will agree with us and make the standards public.”

 Download a PDF of this press release (PDF)

Contact

Jason Stevenson
Strategic Communications Manager, ACLU of Utah
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
(801) 871-0334 (w) or (617) 290-8188 (m)

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For more information about the ACLU of Utah or to be added to our media contact list, contact Jason Stevenson, Strategic Communications Manager, at (617) 290-8188 (cell), or email, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.