During the Prison Relocation Commission (PRC) meeting Dec. 22 in the State Senate Room, Rep. Greg Hughes threatened that the prison relocation process could go ahead without any public input ... but due to the importance of the process, the committee is graciously allowing the public to participate. Hughes also reminded people to remember the “golden rule” as we participate in this process.
The golden rule applies to everyone, not just one group of people. When people feel they are being listened to rather than preached at, their frustration level does not boil over so quickly. Thus, discourse is more likely to remain civil.
Here are a few questions for the PRC to answer:
Why does the prison have to be moved at all? Just build a brand-new facility on a smaller parcel of the current land and develop all the rest. The cost savings of not having to build new utilities and infrastructure at a different site will be at least $25 million to $35 million (according to PRC consultants Robert Nardi and Brad Sassatelli), and development of the remaining land will bring in much-anticipated tax revenue, thereby saving taxpayers money.
Why does a new prison need to occupy 500 acres? For measurement purposes, Liberty Park in Salt Lake City is about 80 acres. That size for a prison should be more than enough room.
Why move the prison far from existing mental health support, medical support, justice system and infrastructure? If inmate recidivism is such a concern, according to Rep. Brad Wilson’s comments from the Dec. 22 meeting, why even consider moving the inmate population to a distant place like Tooele County, which has very little mental health and remedial support for its own population, let alone for thousands of additional inmates?
At the Dec. 18 informational meeting at the Health Department in Tooele, the statistic was given that of the people in Tooele County who need mental health care, only 24 percent are able to receive it because of the lack of available mental health providers. In addition, Tooele County only has one small hospital.
Consider how many extra miles would be billed to the taxpayers to transport inmates to and from court appearances, hospitals, etc. Interstate 80 is the only viable traffic artery into Tooele County; all other roads are undivided, single-lane roads. When I-80 is blocked due to an accident, delays can last up to eight hours. That’s eight hours of sitting on the freeway, without access to water or bathroom facilities. How would that work with prisoner transport? A good example is the traffic snarl on Dec. 29, when I-80 was closed and traffic was delayed for many hours.
A prison in Tooele County would require millions of additional miles per year driven by staff and volunteers. The extra miles will add to the already unacceptable levels of air pollution in both the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys.
The cost of the needed improvements to infrastructure, which would be required of Tooele County to cope with increased population and traffic, would break an already overloaded county budget.
Tooele County has a diminishing supply of water; the groundwater table has been lowering for years. The prison needs an uninterrupted supply of 500,000 to 600,000 gallons of potable water daily.
It’s clear Tooele County is entirely unsuited for the prison.
To the PRC and Legislature, please answer yes or no:
Do you or your family, friends or associates stand to benefit in any way from moving the prison and developing the land in Draper? If you answered “yes,” then you have a conflict of interest and should make that known publicly and withdraw your support for the prison relocation.
Eric and Susan Johnsen are residents of Grantsville. Eric has worked as a graphic designer for the past 26 years in Salt Lake City, Hollywood and Los Angeles. Susan has taught music for over 35 years. They are active in community affairs.