A panel of Utah legislators will determine a new location for the Utah State Prison by November 2014.
Utah County is one of the possible relocation sites for the prison, along with Salt Lake and Tooele counties, although a final location has not yet been determined.
The recently formed Prison Relocation Commission, which replace the Prison Relocation and Development Authority (PRADA), plans to construct a new, state-of-the-art facility to replace the aging prison in Draper.
“The question is not whether to build the prison; it’s a matter of where and when,” said House Chair Brad R. Wilson. “This will be one of the biggest issues in Utah over the next few years.”
MGT of America, a Texas-based consulting firm, estimates that construction of a new prison facility will cost approximately $1 billion to complete.
“Maintaining ongoing dialogue with community leaders throughout the process and early, effective and frequent communication is key to a successful outcome. Each site must undergo an evaluation and approval process,” said George Camp, co-president of the Criminal Justice Institute.
Camp reported that keeping the current Draper prison would require an investment of $783 million over the next 20 years to maintain and expand the current facilities. Current prison growth rates estimate an additional 3,000 beds will be needed to house inmates by 2033, at a cost of more than $700 million to Utah taxpayers.
County jails, as well as the prison in Gunnison, are also being affected by the proposed plans to construct a new state prison. Currently, about half of the Utah inmate population is housed in the Draper facility.
Planners estimate a total of $1.8 billion in generated revenue from rezoning and redevelopment of the current Draper facility. More than $95 million in taxes will be returned to the state of Utah.
“Prison relocation would create about $95 million in tax revenues for the state of Utah. This assumes that the property will be redeveloped. This does not include potential benefits to neighboring properties. To know that the potential is there, it makes this a very sound financial decision,” said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton.
Rollin Cook, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections, said relocating the prison presents more challenges than simply construction of a new facility.
“This is criminal justice reform. It involves addressing the courts, law enforcement and service providers,” Cook said.
According to the Utah Department of Corrections, the Draper prison first began housing inmates in 1951.