What is the purpose of moving the Utah State Prison from Draper? The stated objective has changed over time. Today I challenge four of the many myths perpetuated by the Prison Relocation Commission (PRC).
Myth 1: If the prison is not moved, the $1.8 billion economic output to the state will not happen.
It is a fallacy to say if a company can’t come to the prison land in Draper, they won’t come at all. Looking at what is happening in northern Utah County with companies such as Adobe, Xactware, Ancestry, VivintSolar, Oracle and others clearly shows this myth is not true. Investing in Mountain View Corridor would open thousands of acres of land for development rather than simply putting a billion dollars into developing 680 acres in Draper. Currently there are over 3 million square feet of vacant commercial real estate in Draper.
Myth 2: The Utah State Prison must be moved to enact meaningful prison reform and reduce recidivism.
People enable reform, not buildings. The Department of Corrections estimates that there would be a 20 percent loss in volunteers if the prison moves. Inmates who receive visitors are 13 percent less likely to re-offend. Moving inmates further away from volunteers, families, medical services, courts and other specialists would not help reform. The Draper site has the infrastructure, access and personnel base needed to assist reform. Building a new prison on-site would meet this objective.
Myth 3: There is not enough land on the Draper site to rebuild the new prison.
The PRC has stated that issues with the power corridor running through the property, as well as existing roads, inhibit the ability to rebuild the prison on-site. However, the map on page 158 of the state-hired consultant MGT of America's January 2014 report shows the Draper property fully developed; every acre is counted in its economic output estimate. Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley, an architect, has detailed how this rebuild can be done with the land available on-site.
Myth 4: The sale of the prison land will pay for the move of the prison.
MGT estimates in its 2014 report that the cost of relocation will be “an additional billion in the next 20 years.” PRC Informational Brochure Volume 2 states that to keep the prison in Draper, the cost to “maintain, repair, and replace the aging” facility will be $238 million over 20 years. MGT’s appraisal has the land in Draper valued at $51.3 million. This does not come close to the $1 billion it will cost to relocate. Furthermore, the touted $1.8 billion economic output will not repay the general fund that paid for the prison. Page 175 of the MGT report states, “We note that the economic impact from development of the Draper site is not a direct benefit to the state. Our analysis found that the total annual state and local tax benefits were $94.6 million once the site was fully developed.”
It is the responsibility of Utahns from Logan to St. George to learn the facts about the prison relocation, the process and what it means to you. Poll after poll show the majority of Utahns opposed to the prison relocation. Ultimately, this is a taxpayer issue. It is the largest taxpayer-funded project in Utah history besides the I-15 expansion. All Utahns will pay for it, but only a few Utahns will benefit. This is a prime example of privatizing profits and socializing expenses. The more that comes to light in researching the prison relocation, the more evident it is that it would be a huge mistake and a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars.
Erica Groneman is a leader of No Prison in Eagle Mountain or Fairfield as well as an active member of Keep It In Draper.