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English-only rule scrapped at Utah prisons

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah prisoners will be allowed to talk with visitors in Spanish or any other language they want now that a longstanding English-only rule has been scrapped.

By Aug. 1, signs in the Utah state prison saying, ‘‘All visits will be conducted in English,’’ will be taken down in a policy change ordered by Utah’s new prison boss, Rollin Cook.

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That will put an end to the nation’s only written rule from a state prison system forbidding foreign languages during visits, said Chesa Boudin, a federal public defender in San Francisco and one of three authors of a Yale University law school study that reviewed prison rules across the United States.

‘‘I was shocked,’’ Boudin said of when he learned of the rule. ‘‘This is a country that prides itself on its diversity: racially, ethnically, linguistically. Utah, while not the epicenter of immigration in this country, has many language groups.’’

The rule for visitations was initially put in place as a safety measure so corrections officers could understand what was being said by inmates and visitors, said a Utah Department of Corrections spokesman.

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