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Utah Lawmaker Says Commission Should Consider Keeping Prison Put

Pamela Schreckengost via Flickr

A Utah state lawmaker wants to keep the state prison in Draper even though he voted for moving it.

Republican Representative Merrill Nelson of Grantsville is sponsoring a bill that allows the Prison Relocation Commission to consider keeping the prison at its current location in Draper. The commission is looking at three potential locations, in Salt Lake City, near Eagle Mountain and in Tooele County where Nelson’s district is located. Right now the commission is tasked solely with finding a new location. And while Nelson voted to move the prison initially, he says pushback from the public has changed his mind.

“When the legislature initially made the decision to move, I think we were all under the impression that this was something that would be desirable and wanted and there would be a willing recipient,” Nelson says.

Consultants for the commission say moving the prison could bring in nearly $2 billion dollars a year for the state. Corrections officials say they need a larger prison.

But Nelson says he’s not willing to force the prison on a community that doesn’t want it. 

“We should listen to the people and do what they want and so that may include foregoing what we think is a rich financial bonanza,” Nelson says.

Republican Senator Jerry Stevenson is co-chair of the Prison Relocation Commission. He says years of research has been done on the relocation and he doesn’t think the mission will change course.

“I guess it may come down to who has the most political capital to expend,” Stevenson says.

The commission is expected to recommend a new site before the end of the 2015 legislative session. Lawmakers will have to approve that site. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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