Monday , March 12, 2018 - 4:30 AM
Each week Standard-Examiner editors hash out issues large and small and take a thumbs-up, thumbs-down stance in Monday’s editorials. Here’s what we recommend this week for praise and criticism:
THUMBS UP: To the Legislature for approving Senate Bill 205, which finally ends the secrecy about jail deaths in Utah.
Nothing compels jails to announce in-custody deaths. A report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics offered the only reliable source of information about the mortality rate in Utah jails, and BJS statistics typically lag by two years.
However, the latest report showed that Utah, a state of 3 million people, led the nation in per capita jail deaths in 2014.
An investigation by Mark Shenefelt, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner, found that at least 24 people died Utah in 2016 — the highest total in nearly two decades. And even more troubling, the number didn’t include at least four deaths in Northern Utah alone, where Weber and Davis County sheriffs tried to claim prisoners didn’t die in their custody because they were pronounced dead at area hospitals.
That got the attention of Sen. Todd Weiler, the Woods Cross Republican who sponsored SB 205. Weiler’s bill requires jails to annually report jail deaths to the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Jails must also report the cause of a prisoner’s death, as well as the jail’s policy on opioid treatment and the prisoner’s medication history.
Perhaps just as important, the bill closes the “in-custody” loophole sheriffs used to keep prisoner deaths off the books. If an inmate dies in an ambulance or at a hospital, SB 205 defines it as an in-custody death.
After unanimously passing the House and Senate, the bill awaits Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature. Soon, for the first time, Utahns will be able see how many prisoners are dying in the state’s jail, and why — and with that information, they can begin to hold sheriffs responsible for the safety of their inmates.
THUMBS DOWN: To the Utah House of Representatives, which took time out of its 45-day session to make a rap video about the legislative process.
Late night host Stephen Colbert called it “way worse than I have the power to describe.”
“Irredeemable,” said seattlepi.com.
“Cringeworthy,” concluded consequencesofsound.net.
They were far too kind.
Voters need to demand a promise from every Utah lawmaker seeking re-election that they’ll never rap again.
THUMBS UP: To the Ogden School District for scheduling five more town hall meetings this week in neighborhoods that could be affected by school closings.
Last week, officials met with people in five parts of the city where the district may close or rebuild schools. Superintendent Rich Nye says he wants the school board to make a decision about closing schools by March 15.
That’s not much time. Attend one of the next five meetings, ask questions and share your views with the school board:
THUMBS DOWN: To the El Paso Times for reporting that Randy Rahe, head basketball coach at Weber State University, had interviewed for the coaching job at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“I have not talked to UTEP. I have not interviewed at UTEP,” Rahe told Brandon Garside, a sportswriter for the Standard-Examiner. “The only thing that’s happened is that the search committee that’s representing UTEP contacted my representative. Since then ... nothing’s happened.”
Rahe pointed out he signed a long-term contract and despite overtures from other schools, he doesn’t plan to leave WSU.
“I’ve never, ever been looking to leave Weber State,” Rahe said.
So much for that rumor.
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