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FOX 13 Investigates: Why Utah picked someone with no corrections experience to manage its prisons

Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 09, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Molly Prince was a little concerned when she heard Utah’s governor had picked a new director for the Utah Department of Corrections.

Brian Redd was announced as the choice just three days after the outgoing director announced his retirement. And Redd has never worked in corrections.

But, Prince, who is one of the co-founders of the Utah Prisoner Advocate Network, says Redd won her over.

“Before Brian Redd even took his position,” Prince said, “he reached out to some advocacy groups, and wanted to know what issues we saw that we would like addressed.”

Redd took notes, Prince said, as she rattled off issues like mosquito repellent for inmates at the Salt Lake City prison, family being able to visit sick inmates when they are taken to University Hospital and a program for inmates to send photos to family.

The Utah Senate will consider in a hearing Monday whether to confirm Redd, 47. Meanwhile, he’s been on the job since mid-May as the acting director for the 6,000-inmate Department of Corrections. Redd declined a FOX 13 News interview request.

The Monticello native spent 21 years at the Utah Department of Public Safety. He worked his way up from highway trooper to one of the top administrators in the department.

One of his assignments was helping oversee Operation Rio Grande, which sought to address homelessness in Salt Lake City. Much like in a prison, the operation had punitive and service components.

And that’s one of the reasons Prince is supportive of Redd taking over the Utah Department of Corrections.

“He does have a history of listening to disenfranchised people,” she said.

Redd spent the last two years working for Goldman Sachs as a vice president and manager in the compliance division. He has a master’s degree in public administration from Brigham Young University.

Some governors have done national searches to find the person to lead their prison systems. In one example from 2020, the Mississippi corrections department was described as in crisis. The governor there chose a prison veteran from Louisiana to take over.

“This was not a quick decision,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said during a May 18 news conference.

“We worked very closely with Brian over the course of many years in his former capacity with the Department of Public Safety,” the governor added.

“I assure you, doing a national search would not have returned anybody with the capacity and the qualifications of Brian Redd.”

Like Mississippi, “crisis” is a word that has been used to describe the Utah Department of Corrections. The new $1 billion prison in Salt Lake City needs a hundred more corrections officers and is understaffed in other positions, too.

Two recent state audits have found problems delivering healthcare to inmates and discussed a “culture of noncompliance” among staff who know protocols but don’t follow them.

“We're short dental staff,” Prince said. “We're short medical staff. We're short-staffed everywhere.”

“And inmates get tired of hearing that as an excuse.”

Monitoring probationers and parolees falls under the Department of Corrections, too, and that division also lacks staff.

In his first week on the job, Redd spoke to the legislators in a hearing focused on prison healthcare.

“The things that are communicated (in the audit), they are not OK,” Redd said.

“We will do everything we can to support our employees,” Redd added, “to model good behavior and to create frameworks, policies that will help them be successful so they don’t make mistakes.”

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