Utah leaders unveil new state prison in Salt Lake City
gov. Spencer Cox and legislative leaders unveiled the long anticipated new state prison in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Details: The Utah State Correctional Facility is the largest construction project in state history, Cox said, totaling over $1 billion.
- It will house 3,600 male and female inmates of various security levels.
- The 1.35 million-square-foot prison, which sits on nearly 200 acres of land, is located about five miles west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
- The new site is designed to operate like a small city and includes natural light and outdoor views to help maintain the mental health of inmates.
Why it matters: During the prison’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Cox said the new prison will create more jobs. The infrastructure around the prison could also lead to a new economic hub on the west side of Salt Lake City — a region that’s been historically neglected for decades.
Utah State Correctional Facility bunk beds. Photo: Kim Bojórquez/Axios
Between the lines: The controversial project, which began construction in 2016, went hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.
- It also faced a myriad of delays due to COVID-19, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake, pandemic-induced supply shortages and increased labor and construction costs.
- The prison, which was being built at the same time as the airport’s expansion, also increased demand for already sparse construction materials.
Background: Moving the location to Salt Lake City frees up the estimated 600 acres of desirable land in Draper to make room for housing, retail and entertainment spaces.
- The old prison is expected to be demolished this summer.
What they’re saying: Cox said the new state facility will offer rehabilitation programs to help inmates re-enter society.
- “Our hope is that when they return to our neighborhoods, that they will have a new sense of community, that they will have the tools necessary to rebuild their lives,” Cox said.
- He added the state will work with private employers to make the transition easier for former inmates.
Utah State Correctional Facility soccer fields and basketball courts. Photo: Kim Bojórquez/Axios
House Speaker Brad Wilson emphasized the prison is not a dead end for inmates, critiquing a “dead end” sign near the prison that Cox later removed himself.
- “This facility that we’re celebrating the opening of today is going to be the absolute finest of its kind anywhere in the country,” Wilson said.
- “It’s in our best interest and their best interest that this prison and this facility is not a dead end, but it’s actually a place where they can hit the reset and leave here better than they came in.”
- “This is the place. This is the right place for the Utah state prison,” state Sen. Jerry Stevenson (R-Layton) said, quoting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ pioneer Brigham Young.
What’s next: Inmates will be transferred from the old prison in Draper to the new location over the next two months.