Resolution to relocate state prison moves forward in Utah House

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SALT LAKE CITY  — Inmates at the Utah State Prison, located near Point of the Mountain, may find themselves forced to relocate if a House resolution passes this legislative session.

Whether or not to re-locate the State Prison has been in consideration for a number of years, especially for the city of Draper.  HCR8, which addresses the relocation, passed out of the Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee Feb. 24, with a favorable recommendation, and will proceed to the House floor to be heard.

Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, the concurrent resolution sponsor, said,  “What the resolution is attempting to do is change the dialogue … from, ‘Should we move the prison?’ to, ‘How and when do we move the prison?’ That’s the purpose of the resolution.”

Mayor Walker supporting HCR8
Mayor Walker supporting HCR8

“Think for a minute about what the state would be like today if the state prison were still in Sugar House?” Wilson said. “Things are very different today because of the decision to move the state prison.”

The state penitentiary moved to its current location in 1951. The 700-acre plot on which the prison sits is estimated to be valued around $130 million, according to the Prison Relocation and Development Authority.

If the prison is relocated, the same group estimates an annual $1.8 billion gain for the economy and an increase of $95 million in annual state and local taxes.

“Over the next decade or so we’re going to spend $240 million on just replacing the buildings that are there now,” Wilson said.

Wilson also said companies like Ebay and Adobe have asked for the prison to be relocated so the area can continue to expand. Such findings have prompted the Prison Relocation and Development Authority to decide it is in the best interest of the state to move the prison.

“We see it as nothing but a positive economic gain to all of us involved,” said Draper mayor Troy Walker.

Despite the positive outlook on the part of lawmakers, some residents harbor concerns.

Deborah Reithmuller, founder of the Utah Prison Support group and the wife of a current inmate, said she is wary of relocating the prison because doing so would increase travel distance for current prison volunteers.

“Without these volunteers, the cost of incarceration would skyrocket,” she said. “The offenders would once again become nothing more than a barcode in a warehouse.”

Officials have chosen no location for a relocation site.

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