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Community Opposition to Prison Sites Will Likely Have Little Impact on Final Selection

TheDamnMushroom via Flickr
The Utah State Prison in Draper.

Communities throughout the Salt Lake valley are pleading with the Utah Prison Relocation Commission to remove them from the list of possible sites for the state prison. But public opposition probably won’t make much difference in the decision-making process.

Last week, the commission narrowed the list of locations to six, including sites in Tooele, Salt Lake City, Saratoga Springs and West Jordan--- But so far, residents and local officials from the proposed cities aren’t ready to welcome the state prison. Jewel Allen is co-founder of the citizens group No Prison in Tooele County. She echoes the concerns other communities are voicing. 

“We would be limiting our economic development, it would lower home values and it will also be a burden on our schools and social services, lowering our quality of life,” Allen says.

Among the list of criteria for a new location are proximity to courts and hospitals, environmental impact, accessibility and public support.  Republican State Senator Jerry Stevenson is the co-chair of the Prison Relocation Commission. He says the locations closest to these vital services are currently the strongest candidates.

“But again if you have 0 acceptance in all six places, you still may be number one under the criteria that we now have,” Stevenson says.

Stevenson says some sites will be eliminated long before the end of the process-noting additional sites may be considered. But state officials don’t want to devote too much money to relocating the prison.

“If we have to spend more for the real estate or to get electricity or water to it than we’re spending for the real estate than probably that site is going to eliminate itself,” Stevenson says.

The commission plans to recommend at least two sites that lawmakers will consider in the next legislative session. 

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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