Utah’s new state prison is here, but some families of prisoners worry about the transfer
State leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new, billion-dollar Utah State Correctional Facility Wednesday. It’s located about nine miles north of the Salt Lake International Airport and is surrounded by plots of land and lots of fences and barbed wire.
The project has been years in the works, and now that it’s here, families are worried about what the transfer from the current Draper prison will mean for their loved ones.
Gayle Dawes’s daughter, Joy, has been at the state prison women’s facility Timpanogos for about 12 years. While excited, Dawes is also concerned about the disruption of work and education programs.
“The women were not prepped for the move until a few months ago and we didn't even know what they're taking in [terms] of belongings,” she said. “The last class she had was culinary about a month ago, and all the classes stopped. And they won't start back up, I believe, till August.”
Dawes is also worried about the lack of employment and how that will impact her daughter and the other prisoners' ability to purchase commissary.
“She has our support, but I'm concerned about some of the women that have no one to help them. And then the small amount of currency that they do earn. And I don't think anybody's going to be working for a while earning income,” she said.
“Anxiety comes from fear and the unknown,” said Molly Prince, a member of the Utah Prisoner Advocate Network and social worker. She’s been working to figure out some of these logistics for families.
“So one of the things we encourage is to ask questions and try to get answers. We in UPAN can try to get some of those answers for them. But we also encourage family members to email corrections and ask questions that are pressing,” she said.
Overall, both Prince and Dawes are excited about what this new facility will mean for rehabilitation.
The 1.35 million-square-foot prison incorporates more natural light, extra classrooms for programming, chapels, gyms and medical beds. It has various levels of security for the general population to maximum security.
Deputy warden for the Utah Department of Prison Operations, Brian Kenney said they are allowing visiting, phone calls, and access to programming until the move occurs. That’s expected to happen over the next couple of weeks.
“Our goal is to help the offender gain every opportunity they can. So when they return to the community they're going to be a productive member, be able to have employment, be able to raise a family and hopefully leave this life and start a fresh life and be a responsible citizen for all of us,” he said.
The prison campus has dozens of buildings that span about 350 acres, according to Kenney and is expected to house about 3,500 beds if not more. He said this move has been a long time coming and has dominated most of his career.
“We're moving a city between offenders and staff infrastructure. I mean, we're essentially our own self-operating city,” he said. “So not only do we provide all the community resources that you have in a city, we provide those as well here from water, power, sewer, food, housing. So just the overall magnitude of a move such as this is probably the largest challenge.”
The full transfer is anticipated to be complete by mid-fall. The old Draper prison will be redeveloped once it shuts down.