SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new state prison is expected to be done by the end of 2020 as scheduled, but inmates won’t be moved there until the following year, members of the project team said Friday.
The $650 million project should be done by November 2020. But it will take at least six months to move prisoners from the current facility in Draper to the new one about 25 miles north near the Salt Lake City International Airport, said John Kemp of the construction team hired by the state.
Kemp’s update came during a Prison Development Commission hearing in which lawmakers also approved the issuance of $240 million in bonds for the project in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
That will be two-fifths of the $570 million in bonds allocated for the project over the next three years. The total project is expected to cost $650 million, taking into account $80 million that was first doled out in 2015.
State Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, co-chair of the commission, warned that colleges and other state agencies need to realize that funding will be tight for new buildings in the next several years as the state handles the bonds. “Unless we have tremendous years with tax income, next year will be a tough year to come in and ask for a building,” Stevenson said.
The architectural team revealed a few artist renderings of inside the prison. But Jim Russell of the state’s construction management division said he decided against showing “pretty pictures” of the exterior because he’s not sure the budget will allow for the plans.
Russell said the priority is on making the prison meet the needs and wishes of correctional officials first, then determining how much money is left to make the outside nice.
Kevin Miller, president of GSBS Architects, said designs are based on the goal of fostering normal behavior and interactions between inmates and corrections officers rather than having inmates only be able to see guards who are behind thick glass.
“If I’m in my little box, I’m not interacting with the inmates as an officer,” Miller said. “I don’t have the opportunity to do normative things, ‘How are you doing today? Did you get your meds? Are you going to get to class?’ “
It is part of a concept that the Utah State Department of Corrections has embraced known as “direct supervision,” which has proven to be more effective across the U.S. and reduced attacks on officers and among inmates, said Steven Turley of the Department of Corrections.
The prison design will include several different types of housing areas to allow corrections officers to reward prisoners for making good choices as well as punish those who aren’t behaving well, Miller said.
Prisoners doing well would be able to live in areas where their bathrooms aren’t in their bedrooms and they have their own bed rather than a bunk bed, Miller said. Those facing punishment will be in traditional prison cells with bunk beds and bathrooms nearby.
“We are reinventing, in many ways, how corrections are delivered in the state of Utah,” Miller said.
State Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, raised concerns about officer safety and asked that the design include ways to keep guards safe.
Miller and Turley told her that officers in areas with more dangerous inmates in maximum security will have backup and protections.
Russell, of the state’s Division of Facilities Construction and Management, said the plan remains to have 4,000 beds in the prison. He said there will be room on the site to expand in the future outside the perimeter fences.
The commission discussed at a meeting in December whether the new prison should be smaller because of a decreasing prison population. About 3,000 inmates are currently housed at the aging prison in Draper.