Inmates on hunger strike have legitimate complaints, a former Utah State Prison inmate says

Posted at 10:18 PM, Aug 03, 2015

DRAPER, Utah -- While 42 inmates at the Utah State Prison in Draper continue their hunger strike, demanding better living conditions, support from a past inmate is coming from miles away.

"People on the outside who have never experienced that part of life, they think that it's only the violent crimes and people that are trying to hurt somebody or who have and that's not the case,” said former inmate Ellis Brady.

Three times Brady was incarcerated in the Draper facility. He now lives in St. Louis, Mo. and credits some of the correctional officers with helping turn his life around.

Still, Brady said the prisoners have legitimate complaints about the conditions.

"There's two people to a cell and then, the sanitary conditions I would describe as poor," Brady said.

During his time at the Uinta housing unit, a highly restrictive area of the prison, Brady said, he was let out of his cell on average once every other day for 45 minutes. Phone calls were limited to 30 minutes giving him 15 minutes to shower before heading back to his cell for another two days.

"We've heard 30 or so prisoners who have written to us to describe those conditions," said John Mejia, Legal Director for the ACLU of Utah.

The ACLU has lent its public support to the inmates on the hunger strike, though it is not representing any of them legally.

In a written statement from the prison’s spokeswoman Brooke Adams, she admits some of the concerns.

"Some demands address issues that in recent months we have been in the process of reviewing and revising, such as...programming and out-of-cell time in our maximum-security areas," the statement reads.

It is possible many of the issues could be addressed if the prison is moved as the state has planned.

"Moving the prison and making progress, those are great but those are in the future and some of these men have been in these conditions for years," Mejia said.

Meanwhile, 42 inmates continue to refuse their food.  The prison is monitoring their health, but short of a court order, it cannot force the inmates to eat.