By Bryan Pearson
SALT LAKE CITY — Inmates at Utah’s Point of the Mountain prison may find themselves forced to relocate if a House resolution passes this legislative session.
Whether or not to re-locate the State Prison has been in consideration for a number of years, especially the for the city of Draper. HCR8, which addresses the re-location passed out of the Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee Feb. 24, with a favorable recommendation and will proceed to the House floor to be heard.
Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, the concurrent resolution sponsor, said, “What the resolution is attempting to do is change the dialog . . . From ‘Should we move the prison?’ to ‘How and when do we move the prison?’ That’s the purpose of the resolution.”
Wilson asked, “Think for a minute about what the state would be like today if the state prison were still in Sugar House?. . . Things are very different today because of the decision to move the state prison.”
The state penitentiary moved in 1951 to 700 acres at the Point of the Mountain, land that the Prison Re-location and Development Authority now estimates to be valued around $130 million.
If the prison is re-located the same group estimates an annual $1.8 billion gain for the economy and an increase of $95 million in annual state and local taxes.
“Over the next decade or so we’re going to spend $240 million on just replacing the buildings that are there now,” Wilson said.
Wilson also said that companies like Ebay and Adobe have asked for the prison to be re-located so the area can continue to expand. Such findings have prompted the Prison Re-location and Development Authority to decide it is in the best interest of the state move the prison.
Mayor Troy Walker, R-Draper, said, “We see it as nothing but a positive economic gain to all of us involved.”
Despite of the positive outlook on the part of lawmakers, some residents harbor concerns.
Deborah Reithmuller, founder of the Utah Prison Support group and the wife of a current inmate, said she is wary of re-locating the prison because doing so would increase travel distance for current prison volunteers.
“Without these volunteers, the cost of incarceration would skyrocket,” she said. “The offenders would once again become nothing more than a barcode in a warehouse.”
Officials have chosen no location for a re-location site.