SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Senate is debating a bill that would relocate Utah State Prison and establish the Prison Land Management Authority, a committee that would choose the new location of the prison.
Headed by Senator Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, SB 72 would move the prison from the current 690-acre site in Draper at a cost of $550 to $600 million.
“Many of the buildings would be cheaper to rebuild than to repair,” Jenkins said in a statement on the Utah Senate website. “Interest rates are low, construction costs are low, and the price of land at possible new prison sites has dropped dramatically over the last several years.”
The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee advanced the bill on February 27 with an 18-7 vote. The bill is currently being debated on the Senate floor.
Jensen said the new prison could create approximately 30,000 to 40,000 jobs and save $20 billion in tax revenue over the next two decades while bringing operation costs down from $79 million to $59 million annually.
“Development of this land would result in additional jobs as well as create ‘voluntary’ tax revenue for the state by way of increased commerce,” Jenkins said. “Cost/benefit is always the number one consideration for any public project.”
The land currently occupied by Utah State Prison, which Jenkins describes as prime land for commercial development, would be sold to fund the new facility while the next location of the prison would only need 300 acres to 400 acres to operate.
The 62-year-old prison is aging, Jenkins said, and a smaller, contemporary design would assist in rehabilitation.
“Redesigning the prison will allow us to facilitate new programs and reduce the recidivism rate, resulting in fewer prisoners incarcerated by the state and enabling prisoners a greater opportunity to participate in positive, life changing experiences,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins has faced opposition to the bill with some senators concerned the 11-seat Prison Land Management Authority would give too much power to the governor’s office as the bill states that the governor would appoint eight of the 11 seats.
“It will be the job of the committee created by this bill to determine if the benefits of budget reduction, fewer detainees through better rehabilitation, and increased tax revenue from newly developed property relocation can offset the cost of relocation,” Jenkins said in the statement. “The efficient operation of a police force and a prison is a key duty of government.”