In January, Gov. Gary Herbert advocated in his State of the State address for the relocation of the Utah State Prison away from Draper, arguing the move would produce long-term economic benefits for the state. State lawmakers shortly after formed the Prison Relocation and Development Authority to consider locations where the new prison could be built.
Now, Alliance for a Better Utah is calling for reformed prison policy to be a part of the process of building a new state prison.
Alliance for a Better Utah advised state lawmakers this week to reduce overcrowding by keeping drug-users and other nonviolent offenders out of prison.
"It would include things like more accessibility to things like ankle bracelets or using new technology to keep track of people who are on parole, rather than just sending them directly back into the system," said Isaac Holyoak, Communications Director for Alliance for a Better Utah.
Holyoak said that even if a new prison is not built, the state could relocate inmates to county jails to reduce overcrowding and believes keeping nonviolent offenders out of prison will help reduce stress on an overwhelmed system.
"It saves the state tons of money and it reduces overcrowding in prisons," said Holyoak. "Also just from a strictly, I don't know if you want to call it a philosophical point of view or not, the way we treat our prisoners matters for our own sense of moral justice and compassion."
PRADA is now taking public input on the sites being considered for the new prison. The group is expected to present its findings to state lawmakers early next year.
The Utah Department of Corrections on average has custody of over 7,000 prison inmates per month.
The Utah News Service contributed to this story.
Taylor Halversen is a senior at Utah State University, majoring in Communication Studies and Liberal Arts.