Source: CVDaily Feed

Utah State Prison is comprised of eight separate facilities located on a 700-mile property in Draper, UT. At least three of these buildings are over 50 years old, while the remaining five are relatively new. Given that contractors often say that homes older than 30 years often require new wiring, plumbing, better insulation and even new roofs, it therefore isn’t surprising that many reports describe the prison as dilapidated and run down. However, plans to relocate the prison have drawn controversy from around the state. Now, a state representative has introduced a bill that would make it easier to keep the correctional facility in Draper.

When the Prison Relocation Commission was originally formed, Rep. Merrill Nelson supported moving the facility to a remote area. However, when it was announced that the prison could be relocated to a spot in Tooele County, next to the Miller Motorsports Park, the Grantsville Republican changed his mind. Pointing out that the county had hoped to use the spot to attract restaurants, hotels and shops, Nelson opened two bill files to encourage the Prison Relocation Program to remodel the prison instead of finding a new spot. Currently, the group has been charged with finding a new site, but the state Legislature has yet to give it the power to buy land or begin construction.

Nelson has acknowledged that the prison may be too damaged to be saved. However, he says he disapproves of the way the process has been conducted: the commission is currently considering the Miller site, a location on the south end of Eagle Mountain, and property on the west side of Salt Lake City, but each option has drawn public outcry.

Criticism has also emerged from the prison itself: in a recent letter to the Desert News, Utah State Corrections volunteer Larry Maughan dismissed claims that the prison is too dilapidated to continue operations, pointing out that the present location is conveniently located to medical and mental health facilities, as well as communities of volunteers and employees. Maughan also pointed out that training inmates to perform renovations and repairs would not only save the state money, but also give participants valuable skills for their lives after incarceration.

However, the co-charirman of the Prison Relocation Commission, Rep. Brad Wilson of Kaysville, has rejected both public and political complaints about the relocation. According to economic consultants, moving the prison could create an economic boom at the current site, creating around 40,000 jobs and and generate $1.8 million in economic opportunity. In contrast, it would cost about $250 million to renovate the complex in Draper.

The Prison Relocation commission has reported that they created a series of criteria, including proximity to medical centers and courts and environmental concerns, to help identify possible locations. They then worked with willing landowners to choose optimal sites. Despite the public outcry, the Tooele County site, which is owned by the family of deceased philanthropist and businessman Larry H. Miller, apparently meets these requirements.

According to Wilson, Nelson’s bills are too late: he says the decision to move the prison was finalized in the last session. However, he also commented that the commission is open to reviewing other potential locations and has even changed the criteria to include more remote areas. Currently, the group is still reviewing the finalists to determine the best site. This might be amenable to Nelson, who simply doesn’t want the new prison to be placed near his district’s major cities. However, it is doubtful that other critics, including current volunteers at the Draper location, will be as forgiving.