Prison relocation legislation passes Senate committee
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Legislation related to moving the Utah State Prison from Draper passed a Senate committee unanimously Friday.
The Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee approved HCR8, a resolution calling for the move, and two bills, SB268 and SB270, dealing with a new commission responsible for the relocation.
Already approved by the House, HCR8, sponsored by Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, concludes that relocating the prison from nearly 700 acres at Point of the Mountain is in the best interest of the state.
Wilson told members of the committee that the question of what to do with the aging facility had been studied for three years by two versions of the state Prison Relocation and Development Authority before the move was recommended.
He said his resolution requires "careful, serious and deliberate consideration" in taking steps to reduce recidivism and ensuring the new prison is near corrections employees, volunteers, courts and medical facilities.
Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, said there are many prison employees and volunteers who live in her district and "really have heartburn about this."
Wilson said keeping the facility close "is not just a consideration; it's a critical consideration," especially for the 1,500 volunteers the prison depends on to provide religious and other services.
Senate Minority Assistant Whip Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said she agreed it was time to move the prison but that there are still people questioning the motivation behind relocation, suggesting it's a "land grab" by developers.
Wilson said the focus for the next few years will be on replacing the "antiquated" facility with a modern prison that is better suited to inmate programs and safer for corrections employees.
A member of the prison authority, Wilson said almost no time was spent talking about developing what is seen as prime property.
"I think that's a discussion for another day," he said.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, echoed that sentiment during debate over SB268, which creates the Prison Relocation Commission, and SB270, which repeals the current relocation authority.
Stevenson said the new commission will be made up of seven lawmakers and two corrections officials. They will have $5 million, he said, to start the relocation process.
No site has been publicly identified for a new prison, but Stevenson said he hopes the new commission will have a recommendation for the 2015 Legislature to consider. The commission is set to sunset in 2017.
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