Utah prison buses in officers from Gunnison to Draper to fill staffing shortage

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) The sun rises over the Utah State Prison in Draper on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018.

Draper • Nearly 200 of the 540 positions at Utah State Prison are vacant, forcing state corrections officials to fill the shortage by busing in officers from another prison twice a day, officials said.

Eight corrections officers travel more than 100 miles from the other state-run prison in Gunnison to the prison in Draper each morning, then another eight are sent there in the evening, KUTV-TV reported.

The staffing shortage also has led to scheduled and mandatory overtime for officers, sometimes adding up to 63 hours of overtime or more a month, said former state legislator and current Fraternal Order of Police lodge director Chad Bennion.

"It takes a toll," said Bennion. He called the prison working conditions "pretty dire" and a matter of public safety.

Corrections department officials confirmed the staffing shortage and their use of officers from the Gunnison prison, the television station reported.

Bennion and the corrections department are asking lawmakers to pay for a multi-year compensation plan to help recruit and retain workers. Right now, pay starts at $19 an hour, and new recruits receive a $6,000 signing bonus.

The Utah State Prison houses approximately 4,500 inmates in its eight facilities, according to the corrections department’s website. The Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison houses at least 1,600 inmates.