Protesters seek release of non-violent offenders from jails, including Purgatory, because of COVID-19

Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 7, 2015 | Photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News

OGDEN, Utah — Protesters in two Utah cities are demanding the release of non-violent inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2018 file photo for illustration only of dorm that is scheduled to house 60 inmates at Purgatory Correctional Facility’s Community Corrections Center, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 15, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News said the protests were held simultaneously in St. George and Ogden outside county prosecutor offices Friday night.

“There are ankle bracelets, things like that where they can be monitored. We don’t think that a jail sentence equals a death sentence,” said Malik Dayo of Black Lives Matter.

Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane has seen more than 100 inmates test positive for the coronavirus since June, though prison officials recently said positive tests have come down. That said, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department attributed half of the single-day high 74 cases in Southern Utah last Tuesday to Purgatory. 

Testing at the Weber County jail discovered 31 more inmates have COVID-19 this week, bringing the total count to 114.

Nationally, the confined spaces inside jails and prisons allowed COVID-19 to spread quickly and often undetected.

In Weber County, 89 percent of COVID positive inmates are asymptomatic, officials said.

“We are looking very closely at reducing that population as much as we can without impacting public safety,” Weber County District Attorney Chris Allred said.

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St. George News weekend editor/reporter Chris Reed contributed to this story.

Copyright 2019, KSTU. A Tribune broadcasting station

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