Resident says problems were rampant at Fortitude Treatment Center

Posted at 9:24 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 23:56:15-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A resident at Fortitude Treatment Center said Thursday the facility needs a major overhaul because of problems he said he and other parolees experience, and the mother of a former and future resident said it’s to the point where she’s worried about what will happen to her son.

Meanwhile, the Utah Department of Corrections has announced major changes at Fortitude.

Those who have had their fair share of trouble with the law get sent to Fortitude for help. The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said her son has been to Fortitude and is scheduled to head there again from prison.

"They were never checked on,” she said. “They were taking drugs in the facility, sharing drugs with each other."

Not only did she make claims of drug abuse, she said offenders like her son were supposed to leave for work or to look for jobs during the day, but that’s far from what happened.

"He never once would go look for a job,” she said. “He was at hotels, he was at his friend’s house, dealing with drugs."

A separate resident at Fortitude, one who also wanted to remain anonymous, said the center didn’t enforce rules and left the door open for people to disobey, and disappear.

"I've had people in my dorm or that I know that have been there, and next thing you know somebody says, ‘Oh they ran.’” He explained. “It was almost an everyday occurrence that somebody would run."

As to why people would walk away instead of trying to turn their lives around, he said, the “Mentality of offenders is, ‘Why even deal with it? We can just run and have fun until we get caught.’”

After a handful of walkaways from the center went on to reportedly commit violent crimes, including the shooting and killing of Unified Police Officer Doug Barney, the resident said he noticed a huge crack down.

"I honestly think it's embarrassment for them, because the people and public hear about it and say they're from Fortitude," he said.

On Thursday afternoon, the UDC announced it put into place several actions over the past 24 hours at treatment centers to, “enhance its management and supervision of offenders.” They also announced the resignation of the Director of Adult Probation and Parole and another employee.

This included drug testing all current treatment center residents. During Thursday’s tests, they explained, 29 residents tested positive. They got hauled off to jail or prison.

The UDC said it’s also reviewing all residents currently in these centers.

Anyone leaving to look for work must already have a verified appointment set up, and centers like Fortitude will verify all employment and work hours.

And, the UDC said, it’ll up the availability of substance abuse treatment and other program services.

The current resident said some of the changes, like employment verification, have been met with hostility.

“It’s just chaos there," he said. "All you do is hear complaining about it. People talking about just going back to prison, people talking about running. They’re fighting the authority as much as they can.”

He said he along with other residents don’t like the new rules, and don’t like the way Fortitude and the UDC have been treating them.

“They're just being really rude, and coming down hard on us for what other people did, and I just don't think it's right,” he said.

He complained that they aren’t allowed to leave until Fortitude has confirmed they are indeed going to work, but that has made some people late and put them in jeopardy of losing their jobs.

But for the mom, she hopes the changes will help her son make progress once he’s back at Fortitude. Otherwise, she worries what will happen this time.

"He`s either going to end up… like all the other ones," she said. "Either getting shot by a police officer or shooting a police officer. And that's what I'm afraid of."