Utah lawmakers tasked with moving a prison no one seems to want

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Where do you move an entire prison that no one seems to want?

That’s the issue a group of lawmakers is facing right now. The State Prison Relocation Commission announced their short list for possible new homes to the Utah State Prison, and they were met with pushback immediately.

“Keeping it in Draper is the best option,” said Heidi Balderree, a Utah County resident.

She and others packed the commission’s meeting Thursday to voice their concerns about the prison moving into their neighborhoods.

“Why does Draper want to get rid of it? It's not appealing. It doesn't up your real estate value to have a penitentiary and criminals in your backyard,” said longtime Saratoga Springs resident, Stephanie Follett.

The commission narrowed down potential new sites for the prison from 26 to six locations, with three in Salt Lake County, two in Utah County and one in Tooele County.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has already submitted a lengthy response in opposition to two of the sites, which would be north of the Salt Lake City International Airport or near I-80 and 7200 West.

“We have many concerns from geological and environmental concerns, infrastructure costs, wetlands on both properties, concerns that it would limit the growth and expansion of the airport down the road,” said Jill Love, the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

City officials in West Jordan, which encompasses the third site in the county, are also opposed.

According to the commission, the site almost didn’t make the list because city officials feared it would jeopardize a business deal in the area. However, the location wound up being the top selection on the list.

“Relocating the prison to West Jordan will not resolve the issues currently facing the existing prison site,” West Jordan Mayor Kim V. Rolfe said, “I seriously hope the Prison Relocation Commission reconsiders its actions and the impact it will have on our city. I will fight this with every resource at my disposal.”

The complaints did not stop the commission from moving forward with the six locations. A motion to consider them further was passed unanimously, however, members said they would face further scrutiny and could be changed.

“I think any of us on the commission would have to be both deaf and blind to not realize that there are an awful lot of folks here that have an opinion about at least one of them,” said Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns.

Lawmakers have been debating whether or not to move the Draper prison for years. Due to maintenance costs and real estate opportunities at its current location, the legislature decided to take action.

Consultants helped determine the possible locations through a screening process. They considered a variety of factors, including proximity to staff, the court systems and the current prison; environmental concerns and land area.

“This could all change. We have not closed the door on site proposals,” said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, the commission’s co-chairman.

The commission has another meeting scheduled for December 22, at which point they hope to have a better idea of what locations are still an option.



  • Howard Lemcke

    Other than the potential for several developer/legislators to make personal killings and spread the wealth to insiders, what’s the reason to move the prison? They make millions if we spend billions. Since most of the facilities at Point of the Mountain are actually newer, modern structures, why not just tear down the original, Gothic barn and replace that? Oh, sorry! Silly me! You can’t line all those personal pockets doing that. Follow the money. Always follow the money.

    • Greg jacquart

      Howard, I agree. I worked frorCorrections for 33 years and some of that time was spent as the Legislative Liaison. I am now retired and have been following this debacle. There is plenty of room at the current site to build new units on the current site and phase out the old buildings a little at a time. What has not been said here is that the oldest of the buildings were completed in the 50’s but the majority of the site (housing units) have been built from 1984 to present. The original prison buildings ( all of the grey concrete ones in the center of the compound ) may need to be replaced but all of Promontory,Oquirhs ( built late 80’s ) , Uintas,(Built 1980’s and 90’s) , Timpanogas ( built 1980’s) and so forth are still completely functional. What needs to happen is for an out of state team completely unrelated to any faction in Utah needs to be brought in to do an evaluation of the best course of action to take. This won’t happen because then they can not be controlled.

  • Dean

    I support the new prison. More jobs for the people who ran out of jobs in tooele. You can start working at 16 and most people can had worked every job by the age of 30. This prison construction will open alot of jobs for those who cant leave town for work. Plus more money for tooele county means more companies moving out here with even more work.

  • ASMason

    I have two suggestions, One why not find out who voted for this move…pin point where they live and centralize the prison to be moved near their homes. The other suggestion is why not move it north to Tremonton, or Snowville…..Lots and lots of room and still in Utah.

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