Given the vacant land next to the prison, this is a commonly asked question, but there are several significant reasons why rebuilding onsite is impractical and not in the best interests of Utah taxpayers.
- The roughly 400 acres of vacant land next to the prison is configured in such a way that it would difficult and expensive to build on. The site is crossed by a high-voltage power line and a water canal, both of which would have to be moved at significant cost to make the land buildable. In fact, only about 290 acres of the vacant land could actually be used for new buildings because of other uses and technical limitations; a new prison complex needs about 500 acres.
- While it might possible to rebuild the prison in phases on the current site, it is impractical because of the lack of alternative housing for inmates while existing buildings are razed and new ones are built. Rebuilding onsite would also take longer and we’d also lose economies of scale from building all at once, both of which would increase costs.
- Rebuilding onsite would still leave the prison with a poorly designed layout that makes it less efficient and more expensive to operate than a new correctional facility. While some improvements to design could be made, it’s unlikely the end result would provide the best value for Utah taxpayers.
- Rebuilding on the current site or just replacing some of the oldest buildings, as some have suggested, would prevent Utah from fully implementing recently passed criminal justice reforms, which are designed to slow the growth in the number of people sent to prison and reduce the number of released inmates who eventually return to prison. A new facility with adequate space for treatment and rehabilitation services is needed and the current site is configured in an awkward way that prevents the type of layout required to achieve the best outcomes for inmates and society.
- In addition to making our criminal justice better and reducing future costs that come with, perhaps the most significant reason to move the prison is the economic opportunity we would lose by not moving it. The current site sits at the confluence of the rapidly growing business corridor where Salt Lake and Utah counties come together. Studies have shown that redeveloping the current site could generate at least $1.8 billion a year in economic activity, which would provide nearly $95 million a year in tax revenue to state and local governments. Combined with the cost efficiencies a new correctional facility would provide, not moving the prison is far more expensive than leaving it where it is.