SALT LAKE CITY — For sale: A 17,680-square-foot facility that sleeps 80, and comes with bars on the doors.
The embattled Daggett County Jail in Manila has been put up for sale by the county. County officials are asking $4.45 million for the 20-year-old facility.
The jail was shut down in 2017 after an investigation uncovered ongoing abuse of inmates that dated back years and included officers illegally using their Tasers on inmates, as well as forcing them to act as test dummies to train uncertified police dogs.
Former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen, former Daggett County Sheriff's Lt. Benjamin Lail, of Manila, and former sheriff's deputies Joshua Cox, of Manila, Rodrigo Toledo and Logan Walker were all charged and convicted in various plea deals.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes called it "unbelievably inhumane conduct and a reprehensible miscarriage of justice."
Now, Daggett County inmates are sent to Vernal where they are held in the Uintah County Jail for a small fee.
In August, Daggett County officials made the decision to sell the jail. Nate Worthen, the director of development for Newmark, was hired by Daggett County as a consultant and real estate broker for the sale of the jail. He said the county hasn't completely closed the idea of reopening the facility.
"There could be a play with other states or municipalities to bring inmates into Daggett County and revive the jail if we can't find a suitable buyer. The challenge, really, is labor. There's only a few thousand people in the entire county. And very few, if any, are trained folks who could work (in the jail)," he said.
"And that was part of the problem earlier is there was no oversight and very little training for folks who worked at the jail. To try and entice those people to move to this rural community is tough. So a buyer or a government agency has either somehow got to bring training to the area or bring skilled labor to the area, both of which are really challenging. So that's the major obstacle with trying to bring this jail back into full functionality," Worthen said.
It was previously reported that Daggett County heavily relied on revenue from housing state inmates — typically receiving between $110,000 and $115,000 each month. But Worthen contends that wasn't the case.
"When the jail was in operation, and depending on who you asked and how you looked at how the expenses were accounted for, the jail was either slightly profitable or slightly unprofitable for the community. It wasn't a huge source of revenue for them," he said.
A best-case scenario for the county, Worthen said, would be the jail property becoming something that generates sales tax.4 comments on this story
"The county would love to see a private individual turn it into a commercial use. So that could be a rehabilitation facility or a correctional facility operated privately. Or that could be something like a bed and breakfast or some other recreational use, or even an industrial storage site. We'll explore all options," he said.
But Worthen also isn't sure how realistic it will be to lure a business that would generate sales tax to the jail site. The biggest obstacle, he said, is that the county still needs to cover an existing bond, which he declined to say how much is left.
"They'd love sales tax, but I think it would probably stay correctional or rehab," he said.
Worthen said there has been some inquiries on the property, and social media has generated the most interest about it.