Residents continue to express their dissatisfaction with the location sites for the Utah State Prison while state legislators say that such fears are unjustified.
According to the March 27 Prison Relocation Commission Report, multiple sites are under considered for the new prison. However, residents of these areas remain unsupportive of the idea.
Jewel Allen, co-founder of No Prison in Tooele County activist group has spoken publicly about why she fears the prison would bring harm to her community, one of her main concerns is water.
“We live out in the west desert, and water is a finite resource. Putting up a prison is like building another half of Grantsville while we are already always facing chronic drought,” she said.
At one time Rep. Mark A. Wheatley, a member of the Prison Relocation Commission, opposed the idea of relocation completely.
“Originally I was not fond of the idea . . . I voted against it, and I spoke out against it. But then it passed the house and the senate,” Wheatley said.
Soon after, Wheatley began to see the benefits that a new prison would bring to Utah and now argues that the relocation is not only beneficial but necessary because of the programs it would facilitate for inmates.
“The No. 1 issue that I support is the program inside the prison, which will ensure that we have programs in place for the inmates to go through so that when they have the chance to be paroled, and are going to be paroled, they have some tools in their toolbox to hopefully not go back there again,” Wheatley said.
All of the potential sites were ranked on a scale from one to 100. The three sites that scored the highest were Cedar Valley South in Utah County, I-80 and 7200 West in Salt Lake City and SR-138 Industrial Park in Tooele County.
The Prison Relocation Commission will hold three public informational sessions. Bryant Howe, deputy director at the Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, has two goals for these sessions.
“One is to help the public become better informed on the decision-making process and the site selection process,” Howe said. “Second is to talk to the public about some of the economic benefits of relocating the prison and answer any questions that the members of the public might have.”
Many citizens still feel confused about the facts surrounding the relocation. Wheatley believes one of the main reasons people oppose the relocation is simply because they are misinformed.
“I think it is very positive when you have residents involved so that they can understand the facts. I think some of the facts may be distorted,” he said.
Wheatley recalls reading an article by a concerned citizen whose worries were based on false information.
“I read an editorial response about a resident expressing concern that there will be tens of thousands of inmates. We are not building a gigantic facility,” Wheatley said. “We will build small buildings as the need rises.”
One question Allen hopes to have answered at these informational sessions is why move the prison out of Draper?
“A lot of people say it doesn’t have anything to do with real estate. It does. That’s a big part of it. That is prime property there (Draper). It just makes sense, after looking at it, to build a new prison,” Wheatley said.
According to Jewel, Tooele County residents also have concerns regarding the traffic a new prison will bring.
“Our second concern is the infrastructure of the roads and how will we exactly handle the traffic that the prison will bring with commuters, volunteers and employees driving through when already our I-80 is congested,” Jewel said.
Jewel also fears for the economic development of Tooele County.
“By freeing up the prison land in Draper, there are new opportunities, and we want those same opportunities as well,” Wheatley said. “We don’t want to tie up our taxable land to a non-taxable entity like the prison.”
The three sessions will be held from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.
- May 20, 2015
Promontory Building, Utah State Fairpark.
155 N. 1000 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116
- May 28, 2015
Grantsville High School
155 E. Cherry Street, Grantsville, UT 84029
- June 2, 2015
Frontier Middle School
1427 Mid Valley Road, Eagle Mountain, UT 84005