by Linda Sillitoe
[p.117]The prison issue was a dead-bang winner for us,” said John Morris, who served as board president during several years of the ACLU lawsuit. “They were clearly in violation.”
That statement rang with a clarity seldom heard during the long struggle to improve medical conditions at the Utah State Penitentiary. At times it seemed the primary lawsuit might well have read Michele Parish v. Gary DeLand, the exchanges were so heated between the affiliate and the Department of Corrections.
Two other principals played visible if supporting roles in the made-for-media conflict. Governor Norm Bangerter firmly backed his department head, whom he later described as “flamboyant,” then becoming “testy,” and then, after a barrage of lawsuits and investigations, as a man for whom it was “just time to leave.” Investigative reporter Christopher Smart used Parish and prison sources to outstrip the rest of the media in his dogged pursuit of DeLand and his administration.
In the end the winners and losers became clear, though neither side conceded. The lawsuits reached settlement, the penitentiary received its first mental health unit, and taxpayers paid the ACLU cooperating attorneys hundreds of thousands of dollars in court-awarded fees. By that time neither Parish nor DeLand, Bangerter nor Smart, appeared preeminently in the public eye. Each still had plenty to say.
Bangerter probably represented the typical Utahn. The next-to-youngest of ten children, he grew up on a farm in Granger in southwest [p.118]Salt Lake County. Like the county itself, he moved from a rural to urban emphasis as a builder and eventually as a major developer in the south valley. He served as an LDS bishop and was a stake president when first elected to the House of Representatives in 1974. A moderate Republican, Bangerter became a powerful leader, unanimously re-elected Speaker of the House. When elected governor in 1984, his administration aligned easily with U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s administration, both of which were supported by the majority of Utahns.
As he began his administration, Bangerter concluded that, under Democratic governors, state corrections had become “totally oriented toward rehabilitation. Some were even talking about removing sidearms from certain law enforcement officers.… The prison wasn’t a very secure, safe place.” A smattering of escapes during recent years heightened the public sense of insecurity. “The first reason you have a prison, in my view, is for the health and safety of the public,” Bangerter said.
In searching for a new chief of corrections, Bangerter consulted with DeLand, a self-made expert within the corrections community. Bright, arrogant, and aggressive, as a deputy sheriff DeLand had transformed a three-week jail assignment into an administrative position. Among other law enforcers, he was considered tough but fair, a by-the-book administrator, which seemed logical considering that DeLand had written “the book”—first an operations manual for the jail, then another for the corrections department.
DeLand had discovered that corrections law—invented for all practical purposes in 1970 when the concept of prisoner rights emerged—was an unharvested but fruitful field. He read the few years of case law and began teaching classes, then consulting. By 1979 he earned twice as much, by his own account, in his spare time as he did tending jail for the county, so he resigned.
When approached by Bangerter, DeLand said he did not want to head the state’s corrections system. Still, he cannily proffered his own attributes as a recommended profile of the new administrator. As DeLand recalled one conversation: “Bangerter asked, ‘Can you stop the escapes at the prison?’ I said, ‘In my sleep…but I don’t want your damn job.’” However, DeLand let Bangerter persuade him, cautioning the governor that he might be controversial and would “probably be [p.119]carried out on my shield.” Bangerter was convinced that he had found his man.
Later DeLand described his initiation. He summoned the Life flight helicopter several times to save ailing prisoners. The day after Christmas he described the breadth of prison corruption to Bangerter who authorized an investigation involving the Salt Lake County Attorney’s office, the Utah Attorney General’s office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to wrest control away from powerful inmates.
Under DeLand, the philosophy of rehabilitation withered while improved security thrived. Therapy to change prisoners’ beliefs and values and thereby their behavior had proven useless nationwide, DeLand maintained. He conceded an economic factor in improving prisoners’ skills, given the fact that virtually every inmate would be released. “Do we need education programs and work programs?” he asked rhetorically—“Yes, and hell yes.” He did not define these as rehabilitation, so the programs continued.
Security was DeLand’s hallmark, even after order reigned. The prison population increased, a second prison was built in the town of Gunnison in Central Utah, and DeLand developed an enviable SWAT team. Corrections enjoyed the reputation of a tightly-run and powerful state department, solidly backed by a Republican administration.
Despite the energy DeLand brought to corrections, no “book” existed when it carne to providing medical care to inmates, as consultant Bonnie Norman discovered. She found no operations manual, no volume listing approved procedures, no quality assurance standards. Such a lapse, DeLand had to concede, could lead to problems because no uniformity of treatment was ensured—not that problems occurred, he would add.
In fact, he would insist even after the long legal battles and negotiations that inmates received better medical care than citizens on the street, especially citizens without insurance. “You can’t get a doctor’s appointment as fast as an inmate can see a doctor,” he claimed.
Bangerter’s priorities were clear and economic. “Say you don’t have premier medical coverage at the prison at the level the courts say prisoners should have. Look in the kindergarten classes in the state. Some kids have no health care at all. A segment of society has the [p.120]impression that prisoners live in luxury. I’ve been there, and they don’t. At the same time, they may have services available to them that some citizens who haven’t hurt anyone do not, especially children. You have to find a balance when you’re moving dollars around,” he explained.
Later DeLand professed surprise when he found himself nearing the end of the governor’s first term. He was still chief of corrections, though he admitted that “someone with my style and the stiff-necked, aggressive approach I have to life couldn’t work long in state government.”
In 1988 Bangerter, who had been forced to raise taxes during his first term, won re-election despite an uphill campaign and a three-party election. The night Bangerter triumphed by a two-point margin over former Salt Lake City mayor Ted Wilson was, DeLand said, seductive. “I’d told the governor I’d stay through his first term. But then he came back from thirty-eight points down in the polls. I was at the Little America hotel watching the election returns come in, and he was beating Ted, my old friend. In a situation like that you get so excited you do dumb things, and I agreed to four more years.” Of Bangerter, DeLand added, “I dearly love the man.”
Entering Bangerter’s second administration, DeLand led corrections with the confidence only political and bureaucratic success could bring. But this would change.
Prison officials had performed a long slow dance with the ACLU locally and nationally. DeLand remembered discussing jail conditions with both Jim Joy and Shirley Pedler, and later would laud them as reasonable people. He said, “When I heard Jim Joy was leaving for Denver, I almost cried.” DeLand also said he once asked Shirley Pedler why the ACLU didn’t sue over a particular problem, and she said they didn’t have the resources.
Once Michele Parish was executive director, DeLand would lament losing Robyn Blumner to the Florida affiliate. “She was bright, tough, aggressive, and would kick your ass in a heartbeat, but she was fair and knew what was going on around her. She accomplished more without anybody knowing what she did than anyone else before or since.”
DeLand’s praise for Parish’s predecessors did not extend to Parish herself, during whose term DeLand and the Utah State Penitentiary endured bruising criticism and grudging reform. As Blumner flew east, [p.121]Parish, as acting executive director, attempted to resolve the medical issues without a lawsuit. For starters, she took Blumner’s chair on the evaluation board for medical services but served with waning optimism.
Heretofore Blumner and Parish had worked primarily with Inspector General Lynn Lund, who was also the prison ombudsman. But Lund since had left corrections, becoming executive director of the State Government Trust. Early in 1989 DeLand recruited a friend, Scott McAlister, assistant director of corrections in Oregon, to replace Lund.
“McAlister was the best litigator I’d ever seen,” DeLand said, “enormously arrogant, which was okay with me as long as he won in court.” Somehow McAlister bypassed the standard security check and quickly assumed a triple post: inspector general, prison ombudsman, and assistant attorney general. He became the ‘eyes and ears of the prison system—DeLand’s DeLand.
Later the corrections chief ruefully recalled that both McAlister and McAlister’s supervisor had thanked him for getting the new inspector general away from Oregon. Hiring him, DeLand would say, constituted his major mistake, and fighting the sweat lodge his minor one. But this remorse came much later. For the time being, McAlister’s hands-on authority was virtually absolute.
When Michele Parish heard that Lund had been replaced, she decided she should establish a relationship with his successor. She heard that McAlister had slugged through some “major go-rounds” with the Oregon ACLU and decided to try early to find common ground.
In February 1989, only weeks after Blumner left, Parish drove to the Department of Corrections offices in Murray, south of Salt Lake City, and, as she would recall the appointment, chatted with McAlister’s assistant for about twenty minutes before he appeared. Parish began by saying that she thought they had some things in common. For instance, they both wanted a well-run prison and wanted it run in a constitutional manner.
McAlister would have none of that. He announced that they had nothing in common. The ACLU knew nothing about prisons. He had learned that in Oregon. Prisoners had no constitutional right to rehabilitation, he emphasized. In fact, the penitentiary would not provide medical care if it had any choice. (DeLand later said he thought his [p.122]assistant had been misunderstood regarding the latter comment.)
Parish was not particularly surprised by McAlister’s opinions, but his disregard for diplomacy caught her somewhat off guard. He seemed to be “laying out what I could expect in working with them,” accompanied by “a lot of chest thumping.” She inferred that he considered himself brilliant and herself and the ACLU inept by definition. “The meeting was very confrontive on his part, and that’s about as cordial as the relationship ever got.”
Parish did not mention these impressions to McAlister’s boss when, on February 28, she wrote to DeLand commenting on the Norman report and expressing reservations regarding a certain medical company’s proposal. The proposal seemed evasive and sloppy in naming specific services and costs, and it estimated low figures for special services and hospitalizations. Nevertheless, she expressed hope that as acting director she could “continue the cooperative endeavors initiated by yourself and Robyn Blumner.”
When the evaluation board did not recommend the medical company’s proposal, the reform process became bogged down. Much had been discussed, not much had happened at the inmate level, and so, on the last day of March, Parish nudged again, writing DeLand for the “present plans and progress in implementing the recommendations made by Norman.” She listed questions about medical contracting and accreditation, then closed with, “We appreciate the cooperation you have shown the ACLU and hope that we can continue to work together to improve the conditions at the penitentiary.”
For some time the complaints the ACLU received from inmates and their families had been augmented by concerns expressed by corrections employees and guards. The fact that employees would complain alarmed the affiliate and was especially galling to corrections chiefs. As the year progressed, Parish said later, their calls from prison staff carried the message that no improvement seemed imminent: “You’d better go ahead and file the lawsuit.”
By now DeLand’s control of virtually all aspects of the penitentiary was accomplished. For instance, investigation of alleged crimes fell within the jurisdiction of Salt Lake County. Yet as DeLand stiffened the training of his own investigators and developed SWAT teams, county [p.123]deputies and investigators found the penitentiary doors closed in their faces. One minor instance illustrated DeLand’s “by-the-book” approach even among fellow law enforcers. Subpoenas issued by the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office were returned undistributed because they had been printed on photocopy paper, considered contraband.
On a more visible level the penitentiary’s SWAT team was a new, effective, but somewhat startling entity, one that civil libertarians viewed as dangerous, especially when investigators or the team operated outside prison grounds. It became known to most Utahns when one officer was killed during the multi-agency siege of an armed family compound in Marion, east of Salt Lake City.
The larger question was not whether the funds that poured into prison security superseded the demand, but whether they prohibited a decent dental, medical, and mental health program and also limited education and counseling. The attitudes articulated by McAlister, DeLand, and other officials suggested as much, certainly to the ACLU.
DeLand would maintain that medical costs rose 1,200 percent during his tenure, including contracts and equipment. “When I came there, the main treatment table had water dripping on it. You had to brush away the paint chips. I fixed that.”
True, he admitted, documents showed that he returned money every year to the state from the medical column of the budget; but “that was as close as we could get to the budgeting,” he defended, “and we were damn sure going to err on the side of caution.” A general budget overrun of one-half million dollars during his first year made him conservative, he said, especially during an era of budget cuts.
DeLand responded briefly to Parish’s overtures. In one letter he indicated that she would be allowed to visit the prison without guards monitoring her conversations. He may have viewed this as generous since the sweat lodge issue was coming to a head. In mid-May she wrote again to DeLand requesting budget information and a list of current staffing patterns.
From the outset, Parish had strong feelings about prison conditions. As assistant director she had screened the complaints and horror stories, and as executive director she continued to check many personally. “They were all seriously harassed,” she said of the inmates who joined [p.124]the lawsuit. “These were brave people who went ahead.” Along with intern Marlayn Cragun, Parish would interview inmates and frequently intervene in individual plights. “Sometimes I felt like I was living in the prison,” Parish recalled. “We interviewed probably hundreds of people and wrote letters.”
A sense of close proximity affected Parish in another respect. As chance would have it, her family bought a home in Sandy, bordering on Draper, near the penitentiary. Her daughters attended a gifted program in a Draper school, and many of their classmates’ parents worked at the prison. As tensions rose, the girls began hearing comments on the playground and in school halls. The family moved to the Avenues area of Salt Lake City.
Given her religious orientation, Parish actually ‘‘felt the churches should be doing what we were doing with the prison. They should be demanding medical care and humane conditions since it’s directly within their purview.” Quietly she pushed the LDS and Protestant churches in that direction with some success.
The correspondence and committee meetings involving the Utah affiliate and the Department of Corrections erupted finally into a court drama on June 6, 1989, when the ACLU “challenged the Department of Corrections’ planned move of 248 inmates in the Wasatch Facility at the Utah State Prison from single-cells into undersized double-bunked cells.” The affiliate requested a temporary restraining order “until it can be determined if the size and conditions of the cells meet constitutional standards.”
The cells in question, the press release stated, ranged from forty to seventy square feet, or between twenty and thirty-five square feet per inmate. “Into this cramped space, the size of most people’s bathrooms, are squeezed two inmates, a bunk bed, a toilet, and what few belongings prisoners are allowed to possess.” The press release signed off with this tidbit: “We have also received many complaints that prison officials have coerced inmates into signing consent forms for this move under threat of being written up for a major infraction, refusing a direct order.”
DeLand fired back in the June 1989 corrections Rap Sheet newsletter, directing a sarcastic and detailed message at Parish, saying she “has let her lack of legal expertise lead the ACLU into a battle it cannot win.” [p.125]He defended the double bunking, saying that modifications resulted in recreation space, a new staff control room, and improved lighting, ventilation, doors, and new paint. DeLand’s comparative praise of Parish’s predecessors, “non-lawyers like Robyn Blumner and Shirley Pedler,” overlooked Blumner’ s law degree.
As DeLand recalled: “We started double bunking in eighty-square-foot cells that had a toilet in each room.” This was the honor tier, he said, and comparatively posh. When the corrections officials “got hit with a restraining order,” he defiantly double bunked a block of smaller cells, prompting a reprimand from federal magistrate Ronald Boyce.
“Hell, yes, I was tweaking him, but not just to be vexatious,” DeLand said. These smaller cells had only “four shower heads on the whole damn floor” and the “recreation area” was simply a hall between cells. DeLand brought in an out-of-state friend, “another non-lawyer who makes a fortune teaching lawyers.”
The magistrate, DeLand claimed, ended up ruling against the first project and allowing the second. DeLand trumpeted this irony during a debate with Boyce at the University of Utah Law School, declaring, “Running corrections by restraining order has to stop.” In that forum he referred to himself as “a South Idaho country boy who never spent a day in law school.”
The lawsuit involved in the overcrowding issue, Baker v. Humphries, combined two cases, one filed by the ACLU and one by Brian Barnard. The eventual 1992 settlement would be claimed as a victory by all—the ACLU, Barnard, and corrections. It allowed some double-bunking where prisoners spent time in areas outside their cells and prohibited double bunking in other areas.
“The conditions of confinement for inmates will have dramatically improved from when we filed the lawsuit,” Parish told the Tribune. Both sides were probably right in claiming victory, and this a win-win resolution. Prison conditions improved somewhat, and the state saved money at the same time.
In any case, DeLand claimed he only lost eight cells to the lawsuit. His overall reaction revealed the pride in his legal expertise—“I charge lawyers their fees to teach them their business,” he claimed. This preoccupation with law degrees interested Barnard, who con-[p.126]sidered DeLand a frustrated non-attorney. The two went back to 1979, when Barnard filed an overcrowding suit against the Salt Lake County Jail. In consequent encounters, Barnard said, DeLand punched his knowledge of case law into virtually every conversation.
DeLand’s aggressiveness was equated in Barnard’s mind with the oppression within the prison. The civil liberties attorney shook his head over the prison employees who came to his office to consult about mistreatment they felt they suffered on the job. Barnard would bite his tongue to keep from asking them what they expected, considering the tales he heard from inmates.
Allegations of abuse at Point of the Mountain took numerous forms. One of the more documented involved a call on July 21 to the affiliate office from inmates who feared for the safety of inmate Kyle Harding. A guard had discovered Harding in a sex act with security captain Albert Walles. McAlister’s investigation found “no evidence of forcible sexual abuse,” and he allegedly warned the inmate to keep quiet. McAlister then allowed Walles to resign “for personal and health reasons.”
By this time Tribune reporter Christopher Smart had “sift[ed] through hundreds of inmates to find reliable sources,” one of whom told him that Harding’s experience was not an isolated case. When Smart spoke with Harding, he was told that the young man had been assaulted many times. Smart sat down with McAlister and listened to his taped interviews. Smart concluded that the case was disregarded because the inmate was thought to be gay. Thus the encounter did not, in McAlister’s view, constitute a non-consensual violation.
Believing he had uncovered both criminal conduct and an administrative cover-up, and knowing that crimes cannot be alleged in print without legal charges, Smart consulted county attorney David Yocom. Yocom had his own bind, he told Smart. He could not send investigators to the prison unless the complaint came to his office. Smart found a way for Harding to speak directly to county investigator Richard Forbes, and Yocom ordered an investigation. Smart wrote the story.
Later DeLand shrugged off the incident. McAlister had told him they had a problem, but it was investigated. Since Harding said nothing had happened, and Walles said his health wasn’t good and he would retire early, and the officer who caught them didn’t see much according [p.127]to McAlister, DeLand figured the incident was resolved.
Ultimately the county filed criminal charges against Walles, and the Third District Court accepted a guilty plea. Not only did the conviction of a former corrections captain involve considerable “bad press” for the prison, but Smart later heard how incensed DeLand was to discover the reporter’s role in getting the county involved.
Meanwhile ACLU cooperating attorney Ross Anderson negotiated Harding’s removal to a halfway house or a county jail. Then, at the end of August, the Utah ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in Third District Court “on behalf of Kyle Harding and all other inmates in the Utah State Prison System who have been or are in danger of being assaulted by other inmates or prison personnel.”
The lawsuit requested damages for Harding for assault and battery, “intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress, and violation of United States and the Utah State constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment as evidenced in unsafe conditions of confinement.” Thus the incident that corrections thought was not worth pursuing ended with a criminal conviction and a privately settled civil lawsuit.
“If it hadn’t been for Chris Smart and Rocky Anderson,” Yocom would say later, “we never would have discovered McAlister’s cover-up of criminal activity.” True, DeLand preferred in-house investigations, Yocom said, “but if that meant suppressing crime within the prison walls, that was of great concern to me.”
DeLand, not surprisingly, resented the coverage overall. “Unnamed sources,” DeLand would sneer. “Unnamed sources are nice because you can make up what you want to and fill in the holes.”
“Making up” the news was not considered responsible journalism within the profession. Publishers became rightfully edgy when reporters used unnamed sources to shine a light into comers that would otherwise remain hidden. Smart protected the names of certain sources in the prison and began to gauge his effectiveness as a reporter by the ability of other journalists to follow his coverage. The age of pack reporting, however, involved inherent risks for both the reporter and the publication venturing too far in advance of the rest. As the heat rose under the Department of Corrections, the rumor circulated that the energy in the [p.128]Tribune’s coverage stemmed from Smart’s personal vendetta against DeLand.
Smart had come to the newspaper from a Park City weekly and took over the prison beat from social issues writer Carol Sisco. He did so, he said, without any strong opinions about corrections, initially giving DeLand the news space to respond to an article in another newspaper about deficient medical care. However, Smart’s empty slate quickly developed a firm line down the middle.
While getting his bearings, Smart covered two luncheons that proved memorable. The Footprinters meeting of law enforcers heard a prison official explain that under DeLand’s leadership rehabilitation was out. “We’re going to put these guys behind bars until they’re too old to commit crimes,” a pleased audience heard.
At a Quantus Club luncheon, Smart heard Michele Parish tell a resistant audience that prisoners had certain inalienable rights, and that if the state was going to incarcerate them, it became responsible to see those rights protected. As he listened, Smart perceived two attitudes that were not only distinctly drawn but diametrically opposed.
The way DeLand remembered it, he originally liked Chris Smart and told prison officials to “feed him stuff, give him a break.” But a misunderstanding over how and when Smart would run a story quickly eroded DeLand’s enthusiasm. He liked to know what to expect.
By the time the prison sponsored a media tour to deflect pressure, the relationship was tense. As Smart remembered the event, DeLand kept “giving me the hairy eyeball” during the press conference. At the end Smart said, “Gary, why don’t we clear the air.” The other reporters filed out, and DeLand “yelled at me for a while,” which was the beginning, Smart said, of DeLand “trying to bully me.”
DeLand’s memory differed. Smart, he said, “got cute” during the press conference, and DeLand dressed him down in front of his peers. DeLand claimed that the accompanying Tribune photographer, whose name DeLand could not recall, telephoned to say that Smart had sworn to get even. After that, DeLand said, “he came at me with a vengeance.”
Both recalled a shouting session at the Tribune offices when DeLand and his aides came in. Editors fielded the complaints but backed their reporter in what DeLand would describe as “a very poor meeting.”
[p.129] Before long Smart would make the governor mad, too. At the end of a press conference at which Bangerter defended DeLand, Smart handed him a pathetic letter from an inmate, a letter Smart had opened on his way to the state capitol. Bangerter brushed it away, saying he got a lot of them, Smart recalled; but the reporter left it in his hand and walked off. Bangerter, who made his reply to Smart’s back, considered the encounter an insult.
“Chris Smart was rude and out of line,” Bangerter said, “and I called his editor and told him I wanted him to know he was rude. I got an apology.” Bangerter would lay a good portion of DeLand’s troubles at Smart’s door, calling his coverage “unbalanced. He took what the prisoners said as law.”
As the news coverage increased, the pressure on the Utah ACLU heightened, as well. Parish received criticism for playing to the media. From her perspective, the incidents reported were few in proportion to the incidents the affiliate encountered.
One received no publicity at all. The day after the sexual harassment lawsuit was filed, Parish wrote to Salt Lake County sheriff Pete Hayward, thanking him for his help in returning an AWOL inmate to prison. Fearing peer violence, the inmate had left a work detail, then didn’t know what to do next. He called his mother and his wife, who called the ACLD. When Department of Corrections investigators found Parish’s telephone number with the inmate’s family, their visible outrage threw the family into a panic.
“DeLand was frantic to get him back,” Parish recalled. “His family worried that prison security would shoot him.” Unable to find an attorney eager to intervene, Parish finally called the sheriff. Now she thanked him for sending two deputies to meet the surrendering inmate at a Circle K convenience store in Sandy.
Although county attorney David Yocom confronted DeLand regarding the Harding case, as top county administrator he too tussled with the ACLU from time to time. The Salt Lake County Jail housed inmates convicted of misdemeanors, felonies, and—most crucial for civil libertarians—defendants awaiting trial. The jail population soared beyond its limits during the summer of 1989, and at September’s end the Utah affiliate sued to drop the population to a previously negotiated [p.130]limit. A class action suit was filed by Barnard, claiming jail conditions violated prisoners’ Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Dealing with Yocom regarding the jail, however, was different from dealing with DeLand. No ideological differences fueled the fight. Yocom juggled numbers within various categories of security between the downtown jail and the South Salt Lake facility which only accepted misdemeanants. Additionally, the county was suing the State of Utah for the costs of state prisoners sent to the jail rather than to prison.
In January 1991 Salt Lake County agreed to pay $12,000 to jail prisoners who claimed their rights had been violated. Parish praised Salt Lake County to the Tribune: “When we first got involved in this, conditions were very bad at the jail. When you overcrowd a space, it’s unsafe for guards and unsafe for inmates.” She added, “We’ve made a lot of progress in the last year. I think the county is to be commended for its sensible approach to this problem.”
Yocom declined Parish’s suggestion of a joint news conference. Nevertheless, he added, “I got along great with Michele, never a cross word.”
Gradually penal officials across Utah were learning that a lawsuit could rattle dollars from lawmakers’ pockets without politicians having to appear as if they liked prisoners. The ACLU could take that rap.
For instance, the Ogden Standard-Examiner reported a threatened ACLU investigation of overcrowding in the Weber County Jail, north of Salt Lake County. “Sheriff George Fisher said he’s been expecting to hear from the ACLU, but he hopes the jail can work out the congestion problem without a court order.” These negotiations would continue into 1993, with the help of the courts, although a lawsuit was not filed. An editorial cartoon showed Parish on a firing range taking aim at the Weber Jail after downing the Salt Lake County Jail and the Utah State Penitentiary.
In September 1989, when Deseret News columnist Dennis Lythgoe explored the ACLU, prison issues loomed large. Just as he had solicited comments from LDS spokesmen regarding religious issues, Lythgoe also called DeLand and McAlister to fulfill his editors’ requests that he “balance the story,” an effort that resulted in far fewer column inches given to Parish’s comments than to her detractors’.
[p.131]While church spokesmen were mild in their criticism, prison officials went after Parish with guns blazing. They blasted the ACLU’s efforts to exempt long hair for traditional Native American inmates and to limit double bunking. In what would become a familiar theme, DeLand compared Parish unfavorably to her predecessors, claiming she had a “combative style”:
DeLaud says some tension between corrections and the ACLU is healthy, but that tension has become extreme. He remembers having major arguments with previous directors, all of whom were strong personalities, but then negotiating differences without resorting to litigation.
DeLand thinks this balance has been destroyed under Parish [due to] too much litigation and “gratuitous name calling.” Both DeLand and Scott McAlister, inspector general, maintain that Parish takes her complaints to the press first, without first trying to solve problems. McAlister prefers strong communication, followed by a joint press conference, as an open, desirable way for them to work.
In response, Lythgoe wrote, “Parish thinks McAlister ‘is not the easiest person to get along with.’ She says that because corrections officials are ‘unwilling to work with her,’ the only way to deal with them is with attorneys.”
However, he added, “McAlister believes Parish as a non-attorney previously inexperienced in ACLU procedures, suffers from ignorance. Those pursuing these cases for the ACLU, he says, ‘don’t know what the hell they’re doing.’”
DeLand would later explain that McAlister went out of his way “to ruffle Michele’s feathers.” Although McAlister came across as belligerent, DeLand felt that Parish’s stridency would assist corrections in the courtroom because judges tended to prefer discreet behavior.
Parish would have agreed only in part. She felt she could be outspoken because she was not an attorney. “Attorneys on the case can’t raise hell,” she explained.
Despite McAlister’s blasts, the first dent was about to appear in his own armor. On August 18, 1989, a small Associated Press story about [p.132]McAlister was headlined in the Deseret News: “Utah official is questioned in Oregon slaying but isn’t suspect.” McAlister’s former boss, Michael Francke, executive director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, had been murdered. Six months later the crime was still unsolved. The article began: “The inspector general for the Utah Department of Corrections was among people questioned in the unsolved slaying last January of the Oregon Corrections director, but he is not a suspect, officials said.”
McAlister told the reporter the questioning did not “bother me at all.” He added that he took a polygraph examination in order to satisfy members of Francke’s family, whom McAlister believed had pressured investigators to question him since McAlister had been at odds with Francke. The article noted that McAlister left Oregon five days before Francke was killed outside his office. “Some news reports in Oregon have suggested the killing stemmed from corruption in the Oregon corrections department,” the article reported, adding that it was a suspicion the district attorney denied. Eventually a former inmate was convicted, but, in hindsight, the story seemed a harbinger that not all of McAlister’s ties to Oregon corrections could withstand scrutiny.
During the second half of 1989, as the battles shifted to prison officials opening inmates’ mail from their attorneys and subsequent harassment, Parish poised a behind-the-scenes assault against McAlister. On October 11, 1989, attorney general R. Paul Van Dam received a hand-delivered letter from Parish regarding “an apparent conflict of interest between the intended role of the office of inspector general for the Utah Department of Corrections and the position of special assistant attorney general,” both held by McAlister. “Because of this concern, the ACLU requests that your office clarify the responsibilities…of the inspector general.”
The letter alleged that McAlister’s combined role deprived inmates of an administrative grievance procedure even as independent investigations of prison policies and practices had vanished. “Thus, the only forum for inmates’ challenges to prison practices is the courts. This consequence is inconsistent with the express role of the office of inspector general.…”
Though a non-attorney, Parish’s points were given due considera-[p.133]tion. Before the month’s end the attorney general’s office ruled that the two positions must be filled by separate officials—one as inspector general and the other as director of operations. In effect, McAlister had just lost a good share of turf.
By the end of November the battle reached the state’s Republican legislature. Smart reported that Senator Kay S. Cornaby, co-chair of the appropriations committee over corrections, “has formally requested that the auditor general conduct a ‘performance audit’ of the Department of Corrections. The action,” Smart wrote, “follows repeated calls by the American Civil Liberties Union for a full review of the Department of Corrections by the auditor general.”
DeLand was quickly coming to regard Cornaby, a political conservative, as an enemy, probably due to “a clash of egos,” DeLand said. He claimed that he and the governor had earlier discussed an audit by a “blue ribbon committee,” which presumably would validate corrections. But now the timing would suggest an erosion of Bangerter’s support for DeLand. Realizing they “had been beat to their own punch,” DeLand said, Bangerter backed off.
Next Parish tried to open another front, when, on December 8, 1989, she sent presiding judge Scott Daniels of the Third District Court a memo requesting a grand jury investigation of the prison and the Salt Lake County Jail. Thirteen judges, however, decided against a grand jury probe as too time-consuming and costly.
A week later Parish testified before the House Judiciary Committee as an expert witness regarding the denial of access to the courts for prisoners. Her statement cited the monitoring of attorney-client communications, tampering with mail, confiscating legal materials, denying legal assistance, denying legal resources, and other allegations. In addition, she informed the committee head that the affiliate was about to file its class action lawsuit demanding improved medical, dental, and psychiatric care.
If the year’s onslaught against the Department of Corrections represented artillery fire, the Utah ACLU now brought in its tanks. Parish’s first year as executive director ended by filing the lawsuit on December 18, 1989. Cooperating attorneys Cullen Battle and Kathleen Switzer of Fabian & Clendenin led the front, joined by attorneys from the Legal [p.134]Center for the Handicapped. The class action suit alleged “that the deficient level of medical and mental health care provided by the institution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Bill of Rights.
“Our named plaintiff in the suit is Sandra Henry,” the lawsuit continued, naming an inmate with AIDS, “who has been repeatedly denied access to medical treatment.… But this suit is not just about her case…[but] on behalf of all Utah State Prison inmates, who are entitled to receive adequate, competent medical care.…” The ACLU provided historical background and asked the court to enter a permanent injunction to remedy the deficiencies in medical and mental health care “or to cease incarcerating inmates at the prison.”
Battle shouldered the medical lawsuit out of lawyerly idealism, the sense that one should tackle a civil liberties case from time to time. When he realized the massive investigative detail and legal research involved, he willingly shared the load with Switzer, a new attorney eager to engross herself in a complex and significant case. “The medical conditions we ran into would shock the average conscience if people knew about them,” Switzer said.
Both lawyers found Sandra Henry to be a suitable plaintiff. “We needed one person to go forward as the sole representative of the entire class,” Battle explained. Some inmates with verified accounts of mistreatment wanted only to serve their time quietly and be released. Others seemed more interested in money or manipulating issues. But Henry made an impression. An HIV-positive inmate in poor health, she was being denied ACTH, the main treatment for AIDS at the time.
Once the lawsuit was filed, Henry achieved immediate notoriety within the penitentiary. “Everyone at the prison knew who Sandra Henry was—she took a big risk,” Battle said. “At the time, she had no way of knowing she would get anything out of it but grief. She said, ‘I have a fatal illness and nothing to lose. I want to make a contribution.’”
As if conflicts between the ACLU and corrections had not made the year 1989 sufficiently eventful, the year ended with a pair of implosions as Smart left the prison beat and McAlister exited corrections. The latter was a blast that would travel underground until it burst into the media shortly after the new decade began. McAlister’s disgrace would be one [p.135]story that Smart would not break.
The Tribune incident began, from Smart’s perspective, as he considered a short stack of letters from inmates. Although the correspondents were housed in different cell blocks, they each alleged sexual abuse during strip searches. Even with corrections now in a defensive stance, Smart sensed his editors were growing weary. Nevertheless, he checked out the information and won an editor’s support.
The article hit print, Smart recalled, just as one inmate, “David Jolivett, went crazy and had his own mini-riot.” Corrections guards videotaped Jolivett’ s behavior in the day room, edited it down to a few frightening seconds, and turned it over to the television media. The timing wasn’t good at the Tribune.
“Not only had I just written an article mentioning genitalia,” thereby offending higher-ups, Smart would recall, but now his editors watched on television as an inmate railed and threatened prison officials. With his objectivity in question, Smart was taken off prison stories.
DeLand’s tactic in publicizing the Jolivett incident not only shot down his media nemesis but took aim at Parish, as well. With the medical lawsuit filed, Parish had visited the prison and spoken with Jolivett and other inmates. Later that day, while screaming his fears and threats, Jolivett claimed that Parish told him his life was in danger. DeLand concluded that Parish had instigated what the electronic media billed a prison riot.
DeLand sent a transcript of the incident to the Utah ACLU’s incoming board president, Boyer Jarvis, suggesting that the ACLU investigate itself just as corrections was obliged to do. On page four of the transcript, just before surrendering, Jolivett had said: “You have been hurting me every day since I’ve been in here. Physically and mentally. And I don’t care.”
The prison guard responded, “Well, I care about you, Dave.”
The typed transcript indicated that Jolivett then said, “I’m gonna murder tonight,” but an annotation in pen reworded it to say, “you’re gonna be part of a murder tonight.” Jolivett continued: “Do you know I had a meeting with the ACLU today. They told me you guys were trying to murder me. You are. You’re gouna come in here and murder me.”
Nothing, Michele Parish stressed later, nothing she had told Jolivett [p.136]could be construed to suggest that his life was in danger.
DeLand’s letter to Jarvis followed a mutual television appearance. Substituting for Parish, who had the flu, Jarvis had complimented DeLand, off-camera, for performing a difficult job well. On-camera Jarvis lobbied for additional funds so that corrections could respond to ACLU concerns. Disarmed by his opponent’s affability, DeLand had agreed after the program to meet privately with him to discuss corrections issues.
Jarvis filled in for Parish only reluctantly. He said: “I’ll go, but you have to remember I’m not going to perform the way you would perform. With that understanding, I will reluctantly show up.”
Although Boyer enjoyed overcoming the correction chief’s initial “belligerence,” he found Michele “absolutely devastated” by his performance. “She felt that I had let her down, and I had double-crossed her. That was a major point in the development of our adversarial relationship.”
Now DeLand wrote: “Following our joint appearance on KSL-TV’s ‘Focus’ program, I expressed to members of my staff renewed hope and confidence in improved relations with the ACLU, and an end to the hostile, inflammatory rhetoric” from Parish. But, DeLand continued, “the events of the past week seem to indicate my optimism was premature.”
As DeLand described the recent incident, “two inmates in the Utah State Prison’s maximum security unit began assaulting the Uinta II day room area, breaking glass, destroying a television, an emergency exit sign, a wall-mounted telephone and a mail-drop box.” The incident lasted two hours, Deland said, until the SWAT team “restored order in one minute and forty-five seconds using non-lethal take-down methods.”
DeLand requested that Jarvis “investigate the actions and conduct” of Parish regarding “the role she may have played in triggering the disturbance” and her “unfounded, inaccurate claims concerning the event in interviews” with the media.
On January 9 Jarvis wrote back, indicating the board’s support of Parish and dismissing DeLand’s suggestion that she had triggered the incident. Jarvis suggested a meeting between DeLand, Nicholas Morgan [p.137](DeLand’s deputy and Jarvis’s friend), Jarvis, and Parish at the ACLU office. This meeting did not occur. However, Jarvis later paid DeLand a personal visit to explain the board’s position.
Even in retrospect DeLand clung to his view that Parish had provoked the violence. “She didn’t say riot, but she said something relative to Jolivett’s safety and what we might do. Then he took it a step further than he intended it to be taken.” For a time DeLand refused to allow Parish at the prison without monitoring, but eventually he withdrew that restriction.
Recalling the incident, Jarvis said later, “We supported Michele fully, and she deserved to be supported. Those guys were trying to blame Michele for problems they weren’t dealing with successfully. They were looking for a scapegoat, and Michele’s behavior gave them ammunition.”
Jarvis saw the legal pressure the ACLU was placing on corrections as separate from the cordial dialogue he wanted between administrators. “My recollection is there was no inclination on the part of the board to let up pressure on the lawsuit. I tried to mitigate the fireworks and stick with the issue.” After the board’s supportive vote, he told Parish he was going to meet with DeLand despite her disapproval. From that point on, Jarvis, DeLand, and sometimes Morgan would discuss “how to deal with miscreants and treat them humanely.”
Despite these discussions, Jarvis was not trying to influence the lawsuit, he said; rather, “to let them know that I, at least, and other board members didn’t think they were ogres, didn’t want to embarrass them, but I was unwilling to muzzle our executive director.” He added, “I was trying to get them to quit bear-baiting Michele!” Later Jarvis expressed puzzlement at the idea that he had traversed a proverbial minefield.
“Boyer thought of himself as a CEO and me as a secretary,” Parish sighed. She interpreted Jarvis’s inclination to fraternize with the legal adversary as well-intentioned but not harmless. Both at the time and later her view of herself as an activist determined her approach. “If you’re going to play power politics with people in power, what are you going to play with? The people in power don’t give you concessions to be nice, or even because it’s the right thing to do. Because we were willing to be in their face and file lawsuits, we got things done.”
[p.138]On January 21, 1990, with Smart off the prison beat, Tribune staffer Paul Rolly examined Parish’s latest dunk into hot water. He sketched her “front-line stand” with corrections officials on overcrowding, medical, and legal access issues, and DeLand’s accusation that she had incited a riot by telling Jolivett his life was in danger.
Not only did Parish deny ever making such a suggestion, Rolly wrote, but “the prison has since recanted the claim, and the ACLU Board has taken the position that…DeLand is attempting to discredit” its executive director.
“My stands on behalf of inmates at the prison do not mean I like criminals,” the article quoted Parish. “My client is the Bill of Rights. That’s what ACLU is all about, and if we don’t ensure constitutional protections for the fringes of our society, then they eventually won’t mean much for the rest of us.”
For a year Parish seldom visited the prison unless a major issue required it. Her board advised now, “You are in too much danger down there. At least get an attorney to go with you.” For some time most business with inmates would be transacted by mail, even though the affiliate knew the mail was monitored. Any specific abuses that came to the affiliate’s attention could be referred to lawyers.
The second implosion involved Scott McAlister. Even as DeLand flailed at Parish, he was losing his point man. The public was informed that McAlister had accomplished his goals and was therefore resigning his less-than-one-year tenure.
On December 29, 1989, the Tribune editorialized regarding McAlister’s departure, exuding confidence in the paper’s coverage and sounding a measured call for reform. The editorial suggested that ACLU lawsuits and other criticisms of the prison might well be placed at McAlister’s door and noted that the attorney general had bisected McAlister’s position. It also mentioned what the prison called “unfounded” charges of sexual harassment.
In fact, those sexual harassment allegations had Smart seething as he watched McAlister make a graceful exit. Smart knew that two women had obtained an attorney and were going public with their complaints. Unable to follow the story himself, Smart passed the information to a television reporter.
[p.139]DeLand was experiencing a rough December. Later he said that he had reprimanded McAlister about relocating to his own office a corrections secretary he was dating and had investigated other rumors of hanky panky involving McAlister. While DeLand never believed coercion was involved in McAlister’s relations, he also knew the law. As a supervisor, McAlister had power over the women’s employment—that power formed the crux of sexual harassment.
Three days before Christmas, flanked by two administrators, DeLand called McAlister to his office. Immediately, DeLand said, one administrator insisted that DeLand leave the discussion to them. DeLand demurred, he said, but his associate persisted, saying that McAlister had been warned before. DeLand, who had been experiencing chest pains, went in for medical tests. By the time he returned, McAlister had been fired but wanted to see his friend.
DeLand met with him, he said, and assured McAlister he did not personally believe he was guilty of harassment. “I won’t fight it,” McAlister said, according to DeLand, “if you’ll let me quit.” On those terms, McAlister’s resignation became public.
Then two weeks later KTVX-TV broke the story of McAlister’s alleged sexual abuse of women employees. John Harrington reported live as FBI agents searched McAlister’s home for evidence. Harrington telephoned Smart and invited him to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for more on-camera coverage, but Smart was still stinging from his treatment at the newspaper. “No, you guys do it,” he said. “I’m going to watch.”
While the McAlister story caught and flared in one media outlet after another, the Tribune remained uncharacteristically silent. Finally, Smart recalled, an editor asked, “You want to get us something on this?”
“Yeah, sure,” Smart replied. He was back on the prison beat.
On the “second-worst day of my life,” DeLand said, noting that the first had been when two family members were killed, he walked into the Capitol for a budget hearing. The place was packed with reporters, cameras, and television lights—as DeLand described it, “the most news people I ever saw—if you threw a grenade, you could end a lot of people’s troubles.”
The reporters questioned him about the lewd films the FBI had found in McAlister’s possession. Oddly enough, DeLand mused later, [p.140]on the day he “ran the gauntlet” at the Capitol, Smart stayed the longest and showed the most sympathy.
On February 2, 1990, Smart reported that the FBI had seized forty-five videotapes, some of which involved children, after receiving information from a corrections employee. “The movies may have been evidence in a pornography case in Oregon, according to a federal search warrant,” Smart reported, adding that transporting child pornography across state lines for exhibition was a felony.
County attorney David Yocom said he was offered the case by U.S. attorney Dee Benson, who felt the federal penalty was too harsh for the situation. Thus McAlister was arraigned in circuit court on a second-degree felony charge of exploitation of a minor. He was bound over to Third District Court. In due course a plea bargain was arranged, probation awarded, and McAlister left the state.
Ultimately four sexual harassment civil lawsuits were filed against McAlister and another prison administrator, each naming DeLand as corrections chief and demanding state funds in damages. Typically, DeLand wanted to fight. But the attorney general’s office did not. In one instance DeLand insisted that the state hire private attorneys for him.
His lawyer told him “how bloody it would get, and that in couldn’t take it, I’d better settle.” DeLand answered, “I already judge whether to read the newspaper by whether my wife’s crying or not.” One lawsuit alone was settled with a payment of $95,000 in taxpayer dollars and several other settlements followed.
Somewhere around that time, DeLand went to see Bangerter, who was considering running for a third term. “I said, ‘Maybe I’m a problem for you. If you want, I’ll resign. I’m not doing what I promised I could do for you, and did do in the first few years. ‘“Early on, DeLand said, Bangerter’s press secretary had expressed amazement at the positive press coverage corrections had received.
Now, DeLand claimed, “The governor said, ‘Gary, every time you have a battle with Chris Smart or the ACLU, my mail goes up enormously and it runs two hundred to one in your favor. ‘“ Nevertheless both the governor and the corrections chief would begin their separate plans to leave public service.
[p.141]Throughout 1990 the ACLU kept the pressure on, protesting overcrowding of inmates and the parole policies that promoted it. However, some quiet changes were happening behind the scenes. On June 15, 1990, Parish wrote to Lynn Lund at the State Government Trust to document four points of agreement regarding mental health care within the criminal justice system.
Also in 1990 Parish lobbied the legislature for funding for the Department of Corrections to improve medical care, relieve overcrowding, and boost education and rehabilitation programs. She hoped this effort showed her clash with prison officials represented a true reform effort and not simply a battle of personalities.
The cast of characters was changing on all sides. In June 1990 Jarvis resigned as board president after a final tiff with Parish, and John Morris became board president. “John has a great ability to untangle things,” Parish would say later, “and he did it a number of times. He ran interference for me.”
By year’s end Gary DeLand announced he intended to resign in a year or so. “I knew what it was costing me,” he said later. “It was hard on my wife, and my sons had grown up during those seven years. I thought of the things I used to be able to do—take a month off, or take my wife with me [consulting], and then stay an extra week if we wanted to.”
As Bangerter, who had decided not to run for a third term, would explain: “Over time, DeLand became more testy, and it was just time to leave, the same as it was time for me to leave.” DeLand, Bangerter maintained, had done a good job. A friend of DeLand’s, Lane McCotter, was being eased into prison administration. Few knowledgeable observers doubted that McCotter, plucked from the Texas corrections system, would become the Department of Corrections’ next executive director.
Nevertheless, Parish thought it worth trying to influence the selection of DeLand’s replacement. On March 19, 1991, she wrote to Bangerter’s chief of staff, Bud Scruggs, to “follow up on our discussion of possible nominees.…” Parish suggested several and referred Scruggs to Al Bronstein, heading the ACLU’s National Prison Project. She closed with, “Personally, I hope the ACLU can develop a working [p.142]relationship with corrections, so that problems can be resolved amicably as they arise without having to resort to the courts at the expense of Utah taxpayers.” She added, “I regret that with Scott McAlister and Gary DeLand this relationship has not been so characterized.”
The next day Scruggs wrote back, thanking Parish for her suggestions and saying, “I need to get to work on this right away since I have no idea how long Gary DeLand plans to stay and do not want to see us rushed into a decision on this one.”
A month later Dennis Lythgoe wrote an upbeat feature on Lane McCotter for the Deseret News with a traditional headline, “Utah really is ‘right place’ for prison official’s family.” The article pointed out that McCotter, DeLand’s expected successor, moved to Utah from Texas for personal reasons. The McCotters’ oldest son had been killed in an accident in Puerto Rico while serving an LDS mission, and the family had decided to bury him in Utah where they wanted to retire. “So they buried him in Midway and then bought a home intended for their retirement, without realizing that they would be back sooner.…” Wrote Lythgoe: “He said he enjoys working with DeLand, has great respect for him, and hopes DeLand will be persuaded to stay on longer—at least through Governor Norm Bangerter’s final term in office and even beyond.”
In reality, DeLand already had one foot out the door and McCotter one foot in. After resigning, DeLand continued his consulting business, writing jail standards, prison standards, and testifying in numerous lawsuits for penitentiaries and jails. He and his wife would relocate to St. George in southwestern Utah and build a house near Snow Canyon.
At his retirement roast, DeLand received an inflatable doll named Michele. Although during his tenure his language turned blue when discussing his nemesis at the ACLU, over time his memory would trigger more ire for Chris Smart. Parish “ran her mouth before she got her brain in gear” and was combative, he said. “It became a personality thing,” he said dismissively, “a sideshow.”
No one watching corrections was surprised when McCotter became one of Bangerter’ s last appointments before retirement, or when the new governor, Republican Mike Leavitt, confirmed McCotter’s post.
New faces appeared in the editorial offices of the Salt Lake Tribune, [p.143]as well, even as corrections continued to protest Smart’s coverage. The articles appeared less frequently and were buried inside, in Smart’s opinion, rather than given front-page coverage. Smart asked to be taken off the prison beat again and by fall 1992 was covering city-county government. Occasionally he heard from prison sources and once in a while wrote an article since he had no official replacement.
As the 1992 election approached, Smart listened to an inmate’s telephoned complaint that they had been ordered to destroy prison property. Currently Smart was covering the attorney general race and a referendum on whether a light rail should be built through Salt Lake County. He asked some questions, jotted notes, and hung up. He never found time to check out the information, let alone write a story.
In late October a thick, cross-referenced transcript was hand-delivered to the Tribune editor. It contained excerpts from years of Smart’s telephone conversations with inmates. (All inmate conversations were taped, DeLand said, but Smart’s had been “red-flagged.”) Underlined were Smart’s offhand comments about DeLand, other prison officials, and even editors who would not always print his stories. Reporters would recognize Smart’s comments as typical “schmooze” that builds rapport, resists manipulation by sources, and explains printed results. On most beats, perhaps, the language would be more refined.
Still, a series of demoralizing meetings followed, Smart said, and he decided to finish his election stories and then quit. Yocom ordered an investigation into the prison wiretapping, but no wrongdoing was found. In the flurry of press following Smart’s departure, the Tribune denied having been intimidated by the Department of Corrections, and the newspaper alternately praised and criticized Smart’s coverage. “One day I was a ‘courageous reporter’ and the next day I was a bum,” Smart summarized.
McCotter defended corrections’ actions to the Associated Press, claiming that Smart had been a security risk. Biased coverage, McCotter claimed, might reduce appropriations to corrections by the next legislature. That could reduce the number of prison guards. When Parish heard this, she hooted. But when she was quoted, she discreetly denounced McCotter’s reasoning as “Nixonian logic.”
During 1991 and 1992 Parish enjoyed the satisfaction of a hard-won [p.144]triumph as stipulations were hammered out regarding prison medical care. The fall 1992 ACLU Reporter announced: “ACLU Wins Five Year Battle: Prison to Build Mental Hospital.” It reported that the Department of Corrections had agreed to build a forensic psychiatric hospital as well as to “institute critical improvements in the treatment of mentally ill inmates, who constitute approximately 15 percent of the inmate population.” Medical and dental stipulations would follow in the next few months.
The article recognized the attorneys responsible for the victory including Cullen Battle, Kathleen Switzer, and Robert Heineman of Fabian & Clendenin; Alexa Freeman and Mark Lopez from the ACLU’s National Prison Project; and Mary Rudolph and Lisa Marcy from the Center for Persons with Disabilities.
Perhaps Parish, more than anyone, understood the measure of that victory. She knew firsthand from inmates and their families, from the blast of pressure from the state, and sometimes from within the affiliate how high the stakes had been. If the Utah ACLU had not been willing to take on the combined power of DeLand and the State of Utah On behalf of those least empowered, she said, no one else would have stopped the abuses.
Yet even as the stipulated agreements were grudgingly welded into legal documents, DeLand fired a final volley. “It’s the ACLU’s job to file suit against the prison,” he said, “it’s what they sued me over that I don’t like. Robyn Blumner and I had made a deal, a gentlemen’s agreement on medical care, and I was keeping it.”
Accordingly, the state attorney general’s office filed an appeal protesting payment of the ACLU lawyers. DeLand claimed that the prison had been in line with, or ahead of, its “master plan” in reforming medical conditions, and that the former ACLU executive director had confirmed its progress. Thus the lawsuits were mean-spirited and frivolous, DeLand claimed; what’s more, they had not accomplished a thing.