Gap in Utah Department of Corrections policy keeps prisoners’ loved ones in the dark

Feb 18, 2022, 10:19 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 4:41 pm

DRAPER, Utah – Worry and wait is all Lorna Gallegos could do for days after she learned her son was stabbed while serving time in the Utah State Prison in Draper.

“All I was, was a mother looking out to see if my baby was okay,” she said. “To see if he’s alive.”

On Thursday, Feb. 3, Gallegos heard through acquaintances that her son, 22-year-old Guadalupe Cazares, had been seriously injured. But she says she never received an official notification from the Utah Department of Corrections and spent days calling prison officials repeatedly without answers.

“All I wanted was one simple call,” she said, tearfully. “One simple call to hear his voice to tell me he’s okay, because I know he’s not.”

Lorna Gallegos

It wasn’t until the following Monday that she says the department confirmed her son was in stable condition. Even then, Gallegos said she received conflicting reports about where he was. Eventually, she says corrections officials told her Cazares had been flown to the University of Utah hospital.

“I’m the person [listed as] next of kin,” she said. “I’m his mom, and I am the person they’re supposed to call.”

Gallegos has since spoken to her son, and learned Cazares was stabbed eight times, required surgery, and now has 20 staples across the middle of his chest.

The prison isn’t saying what led up to the violence or who is responsible.

Utah’s Department of Corrections denied a public records request from KSL seeking reports and documentation of the incident and refused to participate in an interview, citing both privacy and security concerns.

Draper Prison

Then, the KSL Investigators requested the department’s policy for notifying family when a person in the state’s custody is seriously injured or taken to the hospital. We learned there is no policy.

“We do not have a formal policy regarding notification to family when an incarcerated individual is injured,” Utah Department of Corrections spokesperson Kaitlin Felsted wrote in an email.

Felsted went on to say, “If an incarcerated individual is hospitalized, it is the decision of the medical professionals to decide when communication should be initiated with the family of the individual.”

KSL reached out to the University of Utah Hospital to confirm whether the decision to notify an incarcerated person’s loved ones in the event of a hospitalization rests with medical staff.

Guadalupe Cazares

Guadalupe Cazares

A spokesperson wrote in an email, “All communication regarding an incarcerated patient is directed to the prison.”

The KSL Investigators spoke with corrections officials in neighboring states and learned policies in Colorado, Idaho, and Arizona all call for timely notifications to next of kin when an incarcerated person is seriously injured or hospitalized.

One Utah lawmaker says it makes sense for Utah’s prison to put its protocol on paper.

“In 2022, I would expect a family to be notified of a hospitalization,” said Utah Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

Upon learning about the lack of policy regarding family notifications after hospitalizations, Weiler said he planned to encourage Utah’s Department of Corrections to develop one.

“All you have to do is hit a button to send an email or whatever. It’s not like we have to use the Pony Express to notify someone,” he said. “You know, your loved one is in the hospital, obviously they’re in the hospital for a reason, it’s, something serious has happened. To me, that’s a no brainer.”

Cazares was in the prison awaiting trial for felony charges of failing to stop at the command of police and assault against a peace officer with a weapon. According to a probable cause affidavit, an officer with the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force identified Cazares as a federal fugitive while he was driving near 21st Street and Orchard Avenue in Ogden in September 2021. Cazares is accused of backing his vehicle into an unmarked police car and speeding away. His next appearance in state court is set for March 9.

Guadalupe Cazares

Federal court records show he pleaded guilty to one count of possession of firearms and ammunition by a restricted person in September of 2020 and was sentenced to time served.

Cazares’ family says he made bad choices and he’ll serve his time, but violence isn’t part of any sentence, and his loved ones deserve to know if he’s hurt.

“And definitely not wait until the person is fighting for their life or in the hospital and still not say nothing about it, because that’s not fair to us parents,” said Gallegos. “They wouldn’t like it if someone didn’t tell them their son or daughter was stabbed or shot, and you have no idea till a week later. It’s not fair.”

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: How cybercriminals use social engineering to get us to hand over our sensitive info

You can have the strongest, most secure password in the history of cybersecurity, but the bad guys know there is one weakness they can use to hack into your system - you!
6 months ago
Delric Ellington and Kael Ellington talk about a stray bullet that entered their Salt Lake City hom...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

Amid increase in youth shooting deaths, Utah pediatricians push for tougher gun laws

The number of Utah children and teens killed by gunfire reached a record high in 2020, in part because of a spike in homicides. Two Utah pediatricians are calling on the state to pass what they see as solutions to the troubling trend.
6 months ago
Albee Bostrom and Sissy McDade turned their love of thrift store shopping into a business: Thrift H...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Second-hand shopping, selling surge as Utahns try to beat rising prices

Data shared with the KSL investigators shows Utahns are trying to bring in more money and reduce spending as they try to bust inflation.
6 months ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
6 months ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: What can you do if you pay someone to do work but they disappear with your money?

Imagine paying a deposit only to have them take your money and ghost you.
6 months ago
Photo illustration (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Your credit card can up your interest rate without telling you

If your credit card company raises your interest rate even just a little bit, it could have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get out of debt. A relatively new law means your credit card company can do just that and they do not even have to give you the heads up.
6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Gap in Utah Department of Corrections policy keeps prisoners’ loved ones in the dark