A proposal to move the Utah State Prison was debated during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Standing Committee on Tuesday. The report explains the ramifications of the proposed move, and why the bill was held in committee for the time being.
Proponents of the bid to move the Utah State Prison from its current location say that the 690 acres of land it sits on are prime real estate for technology companies, and that the move is cheaper than the ongoing maintenance of the facility, which has been in its current location for more than 61 years. Republican Senator Scott Jenkins, sponsor of Senate Bill 72, explained why he believes the move would be beneficial for the state.
“We estimate that that property, if developed correctly will hold some where between 35,000 and 40,000 jobs. There’s a million and a half dollars allocated to develop this and move it over a year and a half. But the long term was more impressive. They estimate that over the next 25 years the economic impact of this project to the state of Utah could be close to 20 billion dollars.”
But some Utahns see something more sinister in the proposed move. Several members of the public who attended the committee meeting wore buttons that read “No New Prison.” Jesse Fruhwirth of the Salt Lake City Prison Divestment Campaign wants residents to know that they will be saddled with the cost of demolishing the old facility and building a new one. He says that the only people who will truly benefit from the proposed move would be the developers involved.
“I think that this whole idea that we need to spend half a billion dollars to save some money is coming from somebody who has been paid by people who stand to make a lot of private fortunes off of this public project. This is a bunch of money being spent by the taxpayers up front for a bunch of promises. Do you know what that sounds like? That sounds like an Obama stimulus plan. ”
Senator Jenkins’ proposed legislation would create the Prison Land Management Authority to oversee the project. The plan to move the prison has been floated for several years now, but without gaining traction. Recently however, Governor Gary Herbert endorsed the idea – though during a press conference Tuesday he said that he supports the relocation only if it is fiscally plausible, and in the best interest of the state.
In the end, the debate on SB72 was truncated, as the committee meeting was running short on time. The discussion has been tabled for a future meeting that promises to be equally as contentious.