Moving the Utah State Prison has been studied for more than 10 years. In 2005, Gov. Jon Huntsman said that, while the prison should be moved, at the time it wasn’t possible to entirely fund the move with proceeds from the sale of the current prison site. Since then, the economy has improved dramatically, additional studies have shown that a new correctional facility in a different location is needed, and recent criminal justice reforms have been passed that can only be fully implemented with a new facility.
Convinced that moving the prison will provide the greatest value and opportunity to Utah’s taxpayers and citizens, the state Legislature and Gov. Herbert approved a resolution in the 2014 General Session to build a new state correctional facility in a new location in proximity to the Wasatch Front. Here are three of the main reasons the decision was made:
- A new correctional facility may cost $550 million or more, but it will help the state realize cost savings over time with a new, efficient, state-of-the-art complex.
- Doing nothing means it will still cost the state an estimated $239 million in repairs and upgrades over the next 20 years just to keep the Utah State Prison operating at its current capacity.
- A new correctional facility allows the state to more fully implement significant criminal justice reforms, recently passed by the Legislature, which are designed to help slow the growth in the number of offenders being incarcerated and reduce recidivism, both of which will help limit the number of new prison beds we’ll need in the future.
- Modern prison design can save money and lead to better outcomes for offenders by making better use of our corrections staff. For example, state-of-the-art surveillance technologies will eliminate the need for staffing six watchtowers and we’ll be able to redeploy corrections officers from remote observation points at the end of the long rows of cells we now have to providing more-effective direct supervision.
- Everyone realizes that the Utah State Prison is simply in the wrong location; it would never be located there today. Booming commercial and residential development is closing in all sides, making the property very valuable.
- Redeveloping the site will provide the state (and local governments) needed tax revenue that can offset the costs of prison relocation and criminal justice reform.
- 67 percent of all prison admissions are parole and probation violators. Better preparing offenders for release will help reduce this number.
- We need to provide more, better-designed space for substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, sex offender treatment, and training and education so that offenders can become productive, tax-paying citizens when they leave prison. The bottom line is that a new correctional facility will benefit society with safer communities; a more-fair criminal justice system; productive, tax-paying citizens; and sustainable costs.