Residents Are Encouraged to Familiarize Themselves with the Prison Relocation Commission’s Plans
Here is the link to the Prison Relocation Commission’s official website. It covers information regarding Open Houses, Corrections Reform, Possible Impacts, Potential Site Candidates, Master Plan, and various studies. We encourage UPAN supporters to become familiar with this information when approaching your legislators.
Source: Prison Relocation Commission
Questions about the Prison Relocation
There has been a great deal of hyperventilation and consternation regarding the relocation of the Utah State Prison from Draper to one of four possible sites. Most of the criticism, if not all, is of the Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) variety. Along with these heated feelings come myth and misinformation in an attempt to rationally support an emotional sentiment.
The best policies are based in fact. The best policymakers seek these facts in order to inform their decisions. So, to help inform the public debate and continue a transparent and lively discussion on the future site of the Utah State Prison, here is a fact sheet that will help answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why is the State of Utah planning a new correctional facility to replace the prison in Draper?
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.
Isn’t moving the prison from its current location really about land development and further enriching real estate interests with connections to legislators?
It’s easy to be cynical and make allegations, but anyone who’s closely followed the process would know that’s not the case. This process is being driven by the need for a new correctional facility and for making criminal justice reforms. Doing those two things together in a new location simply makes sense and is in the best interests of all Utahns. What happens to the Draper property will be decided by a group other than the PRC, but it’s clear that the site has a tremendous economic value that can benefit our economy.
The Governor and legislators are charged with doing what’s best for the long-term benefit of all Utahns. Building a new correctional facility in a new location and redeveloping the current site is clearly the best decision.
How large a correctional facility is being proposed?
The Utah State Prison currently houses approximately 4,000 inmates, and the new facility will be designed to house a similar number of inmates. The new site will have room to expand if needed in the future.
How much will a new prison cost?
In the recent legislative session, the Legislature allocated $550 million for the new correctional facility. However, the new facility is not designed yet, so the final amount needed may change. The Legislature also allocated $15 million to implement criminal justice reforms. These investments are significant, but will save hundreds of millions of dollars in future costs. They are well worth the money.
When will the new correctional facility be built?
Groundbreaking is planned for 2016 and operation is expected to begin approximately three years later.
Where will the new correctional facility be located?
More than 50 potential sites were voluntarily submitted by property owners. These were screened using a variety of criteria over the past several months. The five finalist sites unanimously approved by the PRC at its February 27, 2015, meeting for further in-depth technical evaluation are:
- I-80 / 7200 West in Salt Lake County – This site is west of the Salt Lake City International Airport. It was identified in Round 1 and expanded with a neighboring parcel in Round 2.
- Lake Mountains West in Utah County – This site at the southernmost part of Eagle Mountain City was identified in Round 1.
- Cedar Valley South in Utah County – This site is southwest of Eagle Mountain and west of the Town of Fairfield. It was added in Round 2.
- SR 138 Industrial Park Site in Tooele County – This site is near the Walmart Distribution Center. It was added in Round 2.
- SR 112/Depot Boundary Road in Tooele County – This site is near the Miller Motorsports Park in Grantsville. It was identified in Round 1. (Site removed from consideration May 27, 2015, by property owners.)
We expect the technical review process to be completed in June or July, with a final recommendation made in August, although that date could be change. Once the PRC makes a recommendation, it will be submitted to Gov. Herbert, who will call a special session of the Legislature; legislators will then vote to approve or disapprove the recommendation.
Is there a frontrunner among the five potential sites?
No, at this point there is no frontrunner among the five potential sites.
Why not move the prison to a remote location, or expand the Gunnison correctional facility?
Some have suggested that the prison be moved to a remote, rural location, but it needs to be close to large population centers for several reasons.
- Most of those incarcerated in the prison are from the urban Wasatch Front.
- It’s important that inmates have access to family, friends and programs run by volunteers.
- We want to retain as many employees at the prison as possible, and a move to a location far away would prevent that.
- We need easy access to medical care and mental health and substance-abuse treatment professionals.
- The further away the prison is located, the more it could cost taxpayers to provide the site with the infrastructure necessary for a large, 4,000-bed facility.
The Department of Corrections already has a correctional facility in Gunnison, which is in the process of being expanded. The new $30 million West One unit will house 192 inmates, bringing the total capacity at the Central Utah Correctional Facility to 1,666, when it’s complete in August 2016. The resources in a small central Utah community limit a major expansion there.
There’s plenty of vacant land next to the current prison site? Why not just rebuild a new prison next to the old one?
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.
Are inmates counted as part of a community’s population and what are the benefits, if any?
Inmates are counted toward the population of the community within which the correctional facility is located. Among several benefits will be an increase in distributed sales tax revenues since 50% of a community’s local-option sales tax revenue is based on its population.
How does a prison’s operation affect local traffic?
Operation of a new facility would result in a redistribution of traffic from roads leading to the Utah State Prison to roads leading to the new correctional facility site. Commuting trips by Utah Department of Corrections staff would be distributed across three shifts over each 24-hour period. Studying capacities of current roads and possible needs for improvements is part of the site-selection technical review process and will factor into the final recommendation.
Will the prison negatively impact the local economy?
The correctional facility is expected to bring positive economic growth to its host community. The community hosting the correctional facility will experience positive economic impacts in several ways:
- In the short-term, the construction of new correctional facility is expected to cost several hundred million dollars, Much of the money spent on construction is expected to benefit directly the community where the correctional facility will be developed as construction worker temporarily relocate to the area and/or spend money at local restaurants and businesses.
- There are more than 800 employees currently working at the Utah State Prison. While the PRC is working to minimize any negative impact on these employees, it is expected that some employees will choose to relocate to live closer to the correctional facility. The correctional facility will provide the host community with a very stable employment base with jobs that typically come with excellent benefits. Currently, nearly 50% of current correctional facility employees live within a 20-minute drive to the prison. Over time, employees will likely relocate according to a similar pattern. In addition, employees of the new facility will spend money in the local community for things like food, gas and other items.
- A new correctional facility will require investments in infrastructure in any location, meaning the host community will benefit from these investments for other uses, such as attracting new businesses.
- Statistics and anecdotal evidence from many communities that host correctional facilities, including Gunnison, show that local crime rates go down after such a facility is built, making a community safer and more attractive to business investment.
Won’t putting the prison in a new location drive businesses away?
Correctional facilities often attract businesses, not drive them away. The existence of a correctional facility does not affect the bottom line of a business and is unlikely to be a major consideration for businesses that are considering relocating or expanding. Using the prison in Draper as an example, businesses have not been deterred from expanding or locating in the area around the prison. Dozens of high profile businesses have chosen to open their doors within one mile of the current Utah State Prison, including: Coca-Cola, Ikea, GoalZero, Harmons, C7 Data Centers, eBay, Camping World, Boondock’s Fun Center, RC Willey, 1-800-Contacts.
Furthermore, businesses are not likely to relocate or expand to areas where infrastructure is lacking or in need of significant improvements or extensions. Many communities would like to draw large employers to their area, but lack the funds to provide necessary infrastructure upgrades to do so. New correctional facilities will likely require investments in infrastructure in any location. As the state brings its resources to bear, the host community will benefit from infrastructure upgrades that will be a necessary part of the construction. As infrastructure is upgraded, the host community will become more competitive and attractive to other developers.
Won’t the property value of my home decrease when the new prison comes to town?
Evidence shows that property values do not decrease with proximity to a correctional facility. An examination of home value data for the two zip codes surrounding the Utah State Prison has revealed that the median total home prices and the median price per square foot for currently listed homes are comparable to, or higher than, those are Utah County or Salt Lake County as a whole. Property values are not determined solely by proximity to a correctional facility and are usually determined by a variable of greater importance. These include:
- Values and marketability of properties in the area prior to correctional facility construction;
- Interest rates, income growth, and unemployment rates; and
- Proximity to transportation networks, recreational and cultural amenities, and shopping centers.