Prison Relocation Commission
Questions and Answers
WHY BUILD A NEW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY IN A NEW LOCATION?
Prison Relocation Commiss
Q: Why is the State of Utah planning a new correctional facility to replace the prison in Draper?
A: 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:
- 1. 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.
- 2. Moving the Utah State Prison and redeveloping the site it sits on will – when the site is fully redeveloped – generate an estimated $1.8 billion in additional annual economic output and $94.6 million in annual tax revenue for state and local governments.
- 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.
- 3. A new correctional facility is needed to accommodate modern programs and services that will help reduce recidivism and decrease the long-term growth in the prison population.
- 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.
Q: Isn’t moving the prison from its current location really about land development and further enriching real estate interests with connections to legislators?
A. 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.
FACTS ABOUT THE NEW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Q. How large a correctional facility is being proposed?
A. 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.
Q. How much will a new prison cost?
A. 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.
Q. When will the new correctional facility be built?
A. Groundbreaking is planned for 2016 and operation is expected to begin approximately three years later.
LOCATION OF NEW FACILITY
Q. Where will the new correctional facility be located?
A. 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.
Q. Is there a frontrunner among the five potential sites?
A. No, at this point there is no frontrunner among the five potential sites.
Q. Why not move the prison to a remote location, or expand the Gunnison correctional facility?
A. 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 he resources in a small central Utah community limit a major expansion there.
Q. There’s plenty of vacant land next to the current prison site? Why not just rebuild a new prison next to the old one?
A. 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 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.
EFFECTS ON THE COMMUNITY
Q. Are inmates counted as part of a community’s population and what are the benefits, if any?
A. 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.
Q. How does a prison’s operation affect local traffic?
A. 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.
Q. Will the prison negatively impact the local economy?
A. 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.
Q. Won’t putting the prison in a new location drive businesses away?
A. 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.
Q. Won’t the property value of my home decrease when the new prison comes to town?
A. 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.
Q. How will local police, fire, and ambulance services be affected?
A. Modern correctional facilities are built with the latest in effective inmate management technology and practices such as cameras, sensors, lights, fencing, and direct supervision. Escapes are extremely rare. In fact, there has not been an escape from the Utah State Prison in more than two decades and nearly that long for the state correctional facility in Gunnison.
The demands on services from local police and fire departments will be minimal. Modern correctional facilities are largely self-contained and rarely require public safety services from outside agencies. While it can’t be guaranteed that the local police or fire department will never be requested to respond to an incident, it is unlikely. For example, as of this date, the Draper City Police Department has not responded to an incident at the Utah State Prison in more than two years and the Gunnison City Fire Department has responded to only one incident since 2010 (a small grass fire).
To avoid diverting ambulance services away from meeting community needs, the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) contracts with a private ambulance company to provide ambulance services. In FY 2014, this company provided 79 transports for the prison, and Salt Lake County Unified Fire Authority provided four transports.
The majority of criminal investigations regarding incidents within a state correctional facility are routinely handled by the UDC’s Law Enforcement Bureau. However, the county sheriff's office sometimes chooses to conduct its own investigation of such crimes. Under Utah Code Section 64-13-6, the UDC is mandated to notify the sheriff of the county in which a state correctional facility is located of serious incidents, including criminal conduct of employees, aggravated kidnapping and assaults, and deaths. An agreement between the UDC and sheriff could be put in place to address these.
The Unified Police Department in Salt Lake County currently investigates in-custody deaths and incidents involving officers and staff at the Utah State Prison. Between 2009 and December 2014, it has responded on 28 occasions to the prison for incidents involving property damage, use-of-force, inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-officer assaults, and suicide.
Finally, the new correctional facility will employ hundreds of sworn officers. These officers offer an added security presence in the community who are willing and able to assist local law enforcement when requested.
Q. Will the host city be required to pay to provide water and sewer service to the new correctional facility?
A. The State of Utah is working cooperatively with each potential host city to determine the best method to provide water supply and sewer services to the proposed correctional facility. Although on-site wells are a possible source of water for the new correctional facility, the preferred arrangement is for the facility to be connected to the public water supply system with the state paying its fair share of all needed upgrades and improvements to the city water facilities.
With regards to sewer services, the preferred outcome is for an agreement to be reached for the city to provide sewer services with the state paying its fair share of the needed upgrades and improvements to the city sewer facilities. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, an on-site sewage treatment facility would be built next to the new correctional facility. While a cooperative arrangement between the state and city is best, the state is prepared to “go it alone” to provide its own water and sewer services.
Q. Won’t our electricity and natural gas services be overwhelmed by the operation of a new prison?
A. The State of Utah will secure adequate electricity and natural gas services, either through new power lines or gas mains or by expanding the capacity of existing lines and mains. Studies by utility providers are under way to determine what, if any, new investments are needed.
Q. Are inmate families likely to relocate to the host community?
A. Inmates in the Utah corrections system are housed in multiple locations. In addition to the Utah State Prison, an inmate may be housed in one of the 21 county jails, in the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, or in an out-of-state facility. Inmates can be transferred between these facilities at any time. Families of inmates do not relocate to live near a prison because they know there is no guarantee an inmate will remain in the same location for a given length of time.
APPEARANCE AND DESIGN OF NEW FACILITY
Q. What will the new prison look like?
A. Although the design phase is still months away, the facility will be similar in scale and appearance to a secondary school complex with structures for administration, inmate housing, education, training and recreation areas, dining/food services, health care, prison industries and a central utility plant among others. A single entrance road for controlled access is also common, along with a parking lot near the facility entrance.
Wherever it is built, the new correctional facility will be very different from the old one.
- Modern correctional facilities are designed to blend better into the community, using colors and materials that reflect local surroundings. The new correctional facility will look more like a community college or medical campus than the hulking stone buildings of the past we’re used to seeing at Draper.
- Modern correctional facilities have state-of-the-art security and monitoring systems that largely eliminate the need for things like tall watchtowers.
- Old-style prisons have high-mast lighting that illuminates a large area, often beyond the confines of the facility. New-style facilities have low-mast lighting designed to focus on prison grounds and not glare into the distance.
Q. What are some of the specific features being considered for the new Utah State Correctional Facility:
- Curved, climb-resistant fences instead of rows of fences with razor ribbon
- 24/7 electronic surveillance systems, inside and out, instead of multiple watch towers
- Low-mast, low-glare lighting fixtures instead of high-mast lighting that spreads over neighboring areas
- Few windows on exterior walls with natural light provided by courtyards and interior light wells
- Exterior designed to blend into surroundings with natural colors and materials
- Outdoor exercise yards shielded from public view
- Steel bars and noisy security doors replaced by quieter sliding doors and security glass
- Cells arranged in a circular fashion around central control stations instead of long lines of cells with a correction officer stationed at one end
- A much more appealing exterior look akin to schools, community colleges, municipal buildings and office buildings
Q. Why should we care about having a better-designed prison?
A. Correctional facility design has been greatly affected by changes in corrections philosophy, including:
- Nearly all inmates are eventually released, so correctional facility conditions should support their successful re-entry into society
- Correctional facility security has changed from an “outside-in” model — guard towers, razor wire — to an “inside-out” model — direct supervision of inmates, video surveillance, motion detectors — that makes prisons more secure, which makes our community more secure.
VISITORS, VOLUNTEERS, AND CONTRACTORS
Q: How will people visiting inmates be affected by moving the facility?
A: Visitation at the proposed facility will remain a high priority consistent with current policies and procedures. The quality of visitation should increase by improving visitation rooms, adding greater use of technology, etc.
Q: How will the many volunteers and the work they perform at the Utah State Prison be affected by a move?
A: The siting process has emphasized maintaining the important relationships with volunteers and volunteer organizations. The proposed facility will also incorporate more counseling, training, and educational spaces than currently available at the Utah State Prison, allowing for increased participation by volunteers and volunteer organizations.
Q. How will the prison’s relocation affect private contractors currently serving the Utah State Prison?
A. The Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) has an excellent relationship with its commercial partners, and every effort will be made to minimize potential impacts to contractors. UDC will keep contractors informed of milestones in the relocation process and provide as much advance notice as possible with regards to contract status.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM AND A NEW PRISON
Q. How will this action affect criminal justice and corrections outcomes in the State of Utah?
A. A new correctional facility will enhance the ability of the State to respond to the needs of the inmate populations, ensure a high quality of service and safety for inmate populations. Most importantly, a new facility will help implement recently passed criminal justice reforms by providing more, better-designed space within the facility for substance-abuse and mental health treatment, rehabilitation programming and job-training programs.
With these changes, the state expects to eventually reduce the number of released inmates who end up returning to prison, and to reduce the number of offenders sent to prison in the first place. The safety of communities will improve as a result.
A new, modern correctional facility will help us move away from a “lock-‘em-up” approach to one that emphasizes rehabilitation programming, substance-abuse treatment, and the like. After all, 97 percent of those in prison will eventually be released back into our community.
Q. What are criminal justice reforms meant to do?
A. Criminal justice reform, approved in March 2015 by the State Legislature and Gov. Herbert, is a sweeping and historic package of changes to reform and reinvest in Utah’s criminal justice system. It is designed to:
- Slow the growth in the number of people being sentenced to prison
- Focus prison beds on those convicted of serious and violent crimes
- Strengthen probation and parole supervision
- Increase treatment and rehabilitation services for offenders
- Provide more support to local corrections systems
- Increase oversight and accountability to ensure a fair, secure, and affordable criminal justice system
Q. Why is criminal justice reform needed?
A. Here are some facts and figures to prove the point:
- 2/3 — Ratio of prison admissions for nonviolent offenses
- 18% — Extra time inmates are spending in prison compared to 10 years ago despite research showing that longer prison sentences do not make our communities safer
- 2,700 – Number of new prison beds needed by 2034 without reform, a 37% increase in the prison population
- $542 Million – The 20-year cost of not implementing criminal justice reform
- Utah’s prison population is growing quickly
- Those on probation and parole are returning to prison at higher rates than in the past
Q. What are the benefits of criminal justice reforms?
A. Criminal justice reform will steer Utah in a better direction by:
- Averting up to 98% of the growth we would otherwise have seen in our prison population. This will avoid adding 2,500 new beds to the corrections system.
- Saving Utah taxpayers $542 million that would otherwise be required to build and operate the prison beds to handle a growing prison population.
- Reducing the rate of offenders returning to prison through treatment and rehabilitation services that improve people’s lives and help make our communities safer.
Q. Aren’t these criminal justice reforms just a ruse to justify building a new prison?
A. No. Assessing how to improve the state’s criminal justice system has been ongoing for years. It’s clear that both efforts benefit from each other and will combine to help reduce the number of people being sent to prison, better prepare those in prison for their eventual release back into society, make our communities safer, and do these things in a financially sustainable and affordable way. The fact that the prison relocation process is underway at the same time as approval of criminal justice reforms by the Legislature is a happy coincidence.
QUESTIONS SPECIFIC TO SALT LAKE CITY SITE
Q. Why build on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, where soils are poor, will liquefy in an earthquake and will be expensive to make buildable?
A. All five sites have pros and cons. The Salt Lake City site being considered contains 5,000 acres of land. The prison complex requires about 500 acres, so we have flexibility to find the most-buildable area of the property, and that which avoids wetlands. Much of the Salt Lake Valley sits on soils that could liquefy in a major seismic event and modern building codes require construction designed to limit damage. The nearby Salt Lake City International Airport and International Center business park are also built on soils similar to those at the potential correctional facility site.
Q. The Great Salt Lake is an important flyway for migratory birds, which can be confused by bright lights. Can anything be done to mitigate this if the prison is built on the Salt Lake City site?
A. Yes. The current prison and many others around the country use high-mast lighting, which illuminates a wide area, often beyond prison grounds. Newer facilities employ low-mast lighting, which is more focused on the areas that need to be lighted, creating less light pollution that could affect neighboring properties and migrating birds.
Q. Wouldn’t the Salt Lake City site be the most expensive to develop because there is no nearby infrastructure and the soil is difficult to build on?
A. All of the sites under consideration will require investment to get the property ready so a correctional facility can be built. Some lack easy road access, some will require more ground-leveling than others, while some are further from utilities than others. The technical review process underway is assessing all of these issues and will determine cost estimates for site development. The Salt Lake City site is located just north of the 7200 South exit on Interstate 80, so has easier access than other sites to downtown courthouses and the University Medical Center, which will reduce transportation costs for the Department of Corrections.
Q. Salt Lake City has more than its fair share of correctional facilities and halfway houses. Why can’t the prison be put elsewhere?
A. As the state’s oldest and largest city, it’s not surprising that a variety of corrections-related facilities have been located there over time. It’s important to note, however, that the potential correctional facility site under consideration in Salt Lake City is in a remote area of the city and located on long-vacant land west of the airport. It is at least three miles from the nearest homes, for example.
QUESTIONS SPECIFIC TO GRANTSVILLE SITE
Q. Water is in short supply in Tooele County. Where will you get the water to serve the prison?
A. Securing an adequate water supply is an issue that we are studying at all five sites. The 4,000-bed correctional facility uses about 500,000 gallons of water a day, which is roughly equivalent to that used by 2,000 houses. If the Grantsville site is selected, it’s likely that the state would need to acquire sufficient water rights and build a well to supply the new correctional facility.
Q. Interstate 80 between Salt Lake County and Grantsville is already crowded and is sometimes shut down by accidents and inclement weather. Won’t the addition of more traffic to a prison make things worse?
A. Assessing road capacity and traffic conditions to and from the Grantsville site is part of the technical review process (as it is for all sites being considered). Any economic development in Tooele County, whether it’s a correctional facility or other development, will add more traffic to local roads and freeways. A new correctional facility would be the largest employer in Tooele County, with about 800 employees, some of whom are likely to commute to the site from other counties. Adjusting the timing of shift changes could reduce traffic impacts by reducing traffic during rush hours. In the case of major roads being closed for an extended period of time, the Department of Corrections has a policy of “bunkering in place,” in which staff remain at the facility, until conditions have improved.
Q. Grantsville is a small town. Won’t the needs of the prison put an undue burden on Grantsville’s services?
A. If the experiences of Draper and Gunnison, sites of the two state correctional facilities, are any indication, it’s more likely that locating the prison in Grantsville will actually benefit the town. The state is committed to building all of the infrastructure the prison will need, including road improvements and connections to utilities, which can also help attract light industrial development on neighboring properties. The new correctional facility will be designed to be as self-sufficient as possible and will need little to no community services such as police, fire, or ambulance response. In fact, it’s more likely that officers from the correctional facility will bolster local public safety needs from time to time, as is the case in Draper and Gunnison. In terms of revenue, Grantsville could expect an increase as 4,000 inmates at the correctional facility are counted as part of the local community’s population for the purposes of allocating sales tax proceeds. This would result in an automatic revenue increase for the host community of more than $300,000.
Q. Is it true that the Walmart Distribution Center is considering moving if the prison is built in Grantsville?
A. We have met with representatives of the Walmart distribution center, and while we can't speak for the company, it doesn't appear that they have considered such an option. We view our different industries as compatible with one another and it’s unlikely that a light industrial facility like the distribution center would see a conflict with a nearby correctional facility.
QUESTIONS SPECIFIC TO EAGLE MOUNTAIN SITES
Q. Eagle Mountain is one of the youngest and fastest-growing cities in the nation. Why would you want to put so many dangerous criminals next to so many young children?
A. The current prison is a safe and secure facility, and a new correctional facility will be even more secure as it will feature the latest design and technologies available. Communities that surround the current correctional facility in Draper are also fast growing, have young populations, have not been adversely impacted by the proximity of the correctional facility. In fact, some neighboring communities feel the correctional facility makes their communities more secure and they benefit from having off-duty corrections officers live in their communities.
Q. Because we are a fast-growing area, our roads are overburdened and having a prison located here would just make it worse. How will you address that?
A. Assessing road capacity and traffic conditions to and from the Utah County sites is part of the technical review process (as it is for all sites being considered). Any economic development in the Eagle Mountain area, whether it’s a correctional facility or other development, will add more traffic to local roads and freeways. A high proportion of corrections employees live in northern Utah County, so the traffic impact of placing the correctional facility near Eagle Mountain may be less than expected. In addition, adjusting the timing of shift changes could reduce traffic impacts by reducing traffic during rush hours. Also, the state is prepared to make any necessary road improvements near the correctional facility site to accommodate additional traffic.
Q. Eagle Mountain is being considered for a large light-industrial project, but we’ve heard it won’t locate here if the prison is built. Won’t a prison ruin our future economic development opportunities?
A. We have no knowledge whether the project being proposed would object to a nearby correctional facility. We do know that having a correctional facility nearby has not deterred businesses from locating near the current facility, as is very apparent to anyone who drives past the current facility on Interstate 15. Further, locating the new correctional facility in an area zoned for light-industrial uses could benefit any of the potential locations by extending needed infrastructure than can be used for additional economic development. Finally, a new correctional facility itself is an economic development opportunity, generating an estimated $837 million in added economic activity over 5 years, creating almost 2,800 jobs, and employing 800 people when it opens.
Q. The addition of a sales tax increase in the prison development legislation at the last minute of the session raised eyebrows and has been interpreted as a back-door deal to sweeten the pot for Salt Lake City to accept the prison. Can we assume that this is a quid pro quo?
No, there was no “back door” deal. This is a sincere proposal to help compensate the host community address real and perceived costs of hosting the prison. The sales tax option is just that, an option. Whichever city is selected doesn’t have to impose the additional sales tax if they don’t want to.
Q. Rep. Fred Cox and others have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and allow a referendum to undo the recently passed prison site-selection legislation. How will this affect the process?
A. It’s important to note that the Prison Relocation Commission has no role in the decision about whether this petition is granted. This is an issue to be decided by the Utah Supreme Court as it seems that the petitioners missed the deadline to file an application with the Lt. Governor’s Office to gather signatures for a potential referendum to repeal HB454. It’s not clear what, if any, impact this might have on the site-selection process. We’re continuing on with our work as planned and will deal with any changes as they come.
Q. Can Utah really afford to build a new prison when there are so many other pressing needs?
A. The fact is that we can’t afford not to make this investment for all the reasons I’ve already laid out. We need to improve our system and improve people’s lives, or our future costs will spiral out of control, costing us much more than a new prison.
Q. How much are the consultants being paid for their work on this site-selection process?
A. The details of state contracts with consultants are confidential, but the total costs are a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the cost of constructing a new correctional facility, and significantly less than what other states are paying for similar services. .
Q. Why aren’t we allowed to have a booth at the open house and distribute our materials? This is a public school paid for with our tax dollars, after all!
A. Public schools often rent their facilities for meetings such as this one. The party renting the facility has the authority to determine what takes place at the event and assumes legal liability for activities at the event. As a result, those who wish to provide their own information to event attendees or to protest can do so, but must remain in a designated “protest zone” and cannot block entries or disturb activities inside the event location. This is for everyone’s safety.
Q. The co-chair of the PRC is a land developer. Doesn’t he have a conflict of interest since the plan is to redevelop the Draper site?
A. Precisely to prevent conflicts of interest, all members of the Prison Relocation Commission are prohibited from having any role in the discussion of what will ultimately happen to the Draper site after the prison is relocated. Further, existing state law prohibits any legislator, including any member of the PRC, from using their position for their economic gain—unless they want to go to jail. .
Q. Moving the prison is important decision affecting all Utahns. Why isn’t the issue being put before all Utahns in a public vote?
A. The State Legislature and Governor are charged with making decisions – large and small, controversial and mundane – that affect all Utahns. That’s the type of government we have – a representative and democratic republic. Our form of government also allows for an initiative process by which citizens can challenge laws passed the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
Q. How can people learn more about the project and stay updated?
A. Information is regularly posted to the PRC’s website at le.utah.gov/prc.
In addition, any can comment about the project by e-mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.