No one should be concerned that inmates who serve time in Salt Lake County's proposed new minimum-security jail will have things too easy. County Commissioner Mike Stewart is still thinking of ways to put prisoners to work.
Stewart is recommending to a task force planning the new jail that the misdemeanor offenders sentenced to the facility be used as volunteer laborers for projects that would help pay jail operation costs and provide work experience.The county wants to build the 350-bed jail - which Stewart describes as a barracks with a chain-link fence - on about 20 acres near the Central Valley Water Reclamation sewage treatment plant at 650 W. 33rd South. The site was unusable until radioactive tailings from the old Vitro Chemical Co. were removed.
Stewart last month proposed in part that the county trade inmate labor to Central Valley for the needed property. But he has expanded his proposals for putting prisoners to work.
He now recommends that inmates also build and maintain trails for the long-delayed Provo-Jordan River Parkway project, grow fruit and vegetables to feed themselves and prisoners housed at the downtown jail, and do assembly and other light industrial work at the new jail under contract for private companies.
Stewart said implementing the recommendations would meet the county's objective of creating a facility more like a "factory with a fence" than a jail.
The commissioner has recalled how as a youth he served a community-service sentence for a speeding ticket from South Salt Lake police by cleaning the digesters at a sewage treatment plant.
Inmates could perform that task, which Stewart calls a good deterrent to crime, and others at the treatment plant that require no special skills.
Prisoners could also do landscaping work at the plant and on contract for nearby industries that Central Valley hopes will locate in an industrial park on the old Vitro site.
The new jail should be designed to provide a work area where inmates can perform installation, assembly and other light industrial contract work, Stewart said.
Such projects will give inmates work experience and the earnings from contract work can offset jail operations costs and help inmates pay court-ordered fines and restitution. Prisoners would also be awarded good-behavior time off sentences in exchange for their work.
Inmate labor to build and maintain riverside trails may be the vehicle to get the Provo-Jordan River Parkway project moving again, Stewart said. The project has been delayed by lack of funding.
While the new jail could not be completed for at least a year, prisoners could be working on the parkway trails by early 1989, he said.