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Relocation Commission Grilled On Why Prison Can't Stay Put

Whittney Evans
Rollin Cook, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections joins Ron Gordan, Executive Director of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Senator Jerry Stevenson and Representative Brad Wilson during a Q and A session.

A state prison relocation open house last night in Salt Lake City drew a couple of hundred people—many of whom questioned why the Utah Prison can’t remain at its existing location in Draper. 

Members of the commission, including Republican Representative Brad Wilson and Republican Senator Jerry Stevenson took questions from attendees toward the end of the open house which was set up to provide information about potential prison sites under consideration.

Wilson told the crowd expanding on the existing site will create an inefficient “hodgepodge” of buildings.  He was also quick to point out the economic interests at stake—an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue with the creation of a high-tech business corridor where the prison now stands.

“If we’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars fixing and rehabilitating a prison in Draper, it doesn’t make any sense to rebuild it in the economic and job-creation hub of the state of Utah,” Wilson said.

Stephanie Gricius is founder of the group “Keep it in Draper” she wasn’t satisfied with that answer.

“It’s like they’re forcing development to happen in that one area, where in reality it will happen all over the state,” Gricius said. “Utah is a business friendly state. Businesses are coming here regardless.”

Members of the commission also argued the state cannot fully implement newly enacted justice reforms the legislature passed this session without a new location and new facilities.  

One of the potential sites is in Salt Lake City near Interstate 80 and 7200 West. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker attended the open house. He and members of the council released a joint statement opposing the location.

The commission will hold two more open houses before it recommends a location in August. 

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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