MotherJones by Samantha Michaels
March/April 2019 Issue
Four days before Christmas 2016, Heather Ashton Miller, an inmate in Davis County Jail outside Salt Lake City, slipped while climbing down from her bunk bed. The 28-year-old, who had been arrested a day earlier for alleged drug-related misdemeanors, fell five feet and landed with a thud. When she tried to stand, she couldn’t—the fall had ruptured her spleen. As her lips turned purple, jail staffers gave her ibuprofen. It took nearly three hours for emergency medics to arrive; she died shortly after reaching the hospital.
When lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah asked for the jail’s operational standards, hoping to find out what had happened to Miller and other inmates who had died, they were told they couldn’t see them: The guidelines had been written by a contractor named Gary DeLand, who insisted that sharing his copyrighted work would jeopardize his business of developing jail guidelines and would open sheriffs to lawsuits. In April 2018, the Utah State Records Committee agreed, ruling that Davis County Jail did not need to release its guidelines because the county did not own them.