ST. GEORGE — A resolution to move the Utah State Prison from Draper to a site west of Salt Lake City International Airport has been finalized after passing votes from both chambers of the Utah Legislature Wednesday and being signed by Gov. Gary Herbert Thursday.
In its first special session of 2015, the Legislature voted for the Concurrent Resolution Approving Site for New State Correctional Facilities which provides that the Utah State Prison shall be moved from Draper to an area near Interstate 80 and 7200 West in Salt Lake City.
Herbert said Thursday after signing the resolution that the transition to a new prison is going to take a few years, and while the pick isn’t perfect, he said, it’s the best location available.
Now that Herbert has signed the resolution, the state can begin finalizing the purchase of the property and designing the new facility.
Supporters of moving the prison said it was an opportunity to reinvest in reforms to the criminal justice system and improve conditions for inmates and correctional facility employees.
“Utah is in desperate need of a new facility that will allow the Department to better manage and rehabilitate offenders in our custody,” the Utah Department of Corrections said earlier this month. “The type of correctional facility envisioned, coupled with the Justice Reinvestment reforms now in the works, will position Utah as a model for a state-of-the-art criminal justice system.”
Notwithstanding, the decision to relocate the prison has come with fierce opposition.
“It’s about building up other communities on the backs of another community,” Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said.
Salt Lake City lawmakers pointed out that the area already has more than its share of halfway houses and rehab centers, and, instead of getting remodeled fairgrounds in the neighborhood, the Legislature is dumping a prison on them.
“I am truly disappointed with the news that the Prison Relocation Commission has selected Salt Lake City as the site for the building of the new state prison,” Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said. “The residents and leaders of Salt Lake City have been loud and clear when opposing this possible west side relocation site.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and City Councilman James Rogers also object to the new prison relocation. Salt Lake City officials said they have not ruled out taking the state to court over the decision.
Herbert said he hopes the city and state can come together on the estimated $550 million, 4,000-bed facility.
“I understand their anxiety about it,” Herbert said. “I would hope that in the spirit of cooperation, we can come together with the leaders of Salt Lake City and say this is a remote location, which probably has no anticipated development for many years in the future.”
The second substitute of the concurrent resolution passed the House 62-12 with 1 absent or not voting at 5:26 p.m., passed the Senate 21-7 with 1 absent or not voting at 6:45 p.m., and was enrolled Wednesday. It then went to the governor for signature Thursday morning.
From Southern Utah, Sens. Ralph Okerlund, David Hinkins, Steve Urquhart and Evan Vickers voted for the resolution; and Reps. Brad Last, John Westwood, Michael Noel, V. Lowry Snow, Don Ipson and Jon Stanard voted for it, while Rep. Merrill Nelson voted against it.
- Concurrent Resolution Approving Site for New State Correctional Facilities – Enrolled copy HCR101 – 20150819
- Gov. Gary Herbert’s letter calling for the special legislative session
- Governor calls for special legislative session to address state prison relocation
- Utah among 4 states rejecting federal rules to prevent prison rape
- Utah considers major criminal justice reform, reduced drug offense charges
- Proposal could save $500 million, reduce prison growth to almost zero
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