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Editor’s Musings: Jail expansion a thorny issue
Jan 23, 2014 | 4179 views | 1 1 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tom Busselberg
Tom Busselberg

There’s lots of talk, lately, about moving the State Prison from Draper. 

Right now, it appears to be just talk. 

Among possibilities for housing those thousands of prisoners could be expanding some county jails. Or other prisons could be built around the state. 

Out of a total of 681 inmates at the Davis County Jail,  81 are state prison inmates. They are held under contract, and a stipend is paid for each one of those inmates. 

 Some of the 81 are housed in the main facility and others are at the work center, which is also on the jail campus. 

Last October, the Davis County Commission passed a resolution that said it could be interested in considering jail expansion to house more prisoners should the state facility be moved. 

However, County Commissioner Bret Millburn emphasized that while the county is “open to the idea” of a potential expansion, “it doesn’t mean we’re committed. We just want to keep our options open,” he said. 

Any such expansion could also be a long way off, Millburn said. 

Unsurprisingly, the Farmington City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing any expansion. 

City Manager David Millheim expressed that view in a state Prison Relocation and Development Authority  public hearing last week. 

“We have an extremely large concern about any large jail expansion,” he told the Clipper. 

Millheim sited large-scale  development around the county jail over the past decade as making it prohibitive for expansion. 

Those developments include the million-square foot Station Park shopping center/office park/entertainment complex, hundreds of homes, a school with another one possible soon, and beginning construction of a regional park. 

Both he and county officials have emphasized a desire to work together, to closely coordinate as far as any talk of jail expansion is concerned. 

Rural communities, or those starved for economic development, might welcome a prison, Millheim said. 

I agree. Gunnison, a small town in central Utah’s Sanpete County, gained hundreds of jobs when a branch prison opened there some years ago. 

But, as Millheim said, Farmington doesn’t need or want that kind of economic development. 

Jails/prisons are usually not popular, no matter where they go. 

But eventually they sometimes have to be moved. 

What is now Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City was the home of the state prison until the 1950s. It’s hard to imagine such a facility there now, what with a big shopping area adjacent to arguably one of Salt Lake City’s showcase green spaces.      Although this is probably simplistic to say, I would suggest any expansion plans for Davis County’s jail be considered only after all space is used by in-county inmates.

That would mean freeing up the current 81 spaces taken by state-contracted inmates. It would also mean the loss of some revenue for the county. 

Jails are a necessary evil. As the county’s population continues to grow, there undoubtedly will be more inmates to fill those jail cells.

But I would suggest treading as carefully as possible. Let’s make sure all available options are looked at, stones turned, before any expansion plans are brought forward. 


Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 08, 2014
How irresponsible of the County Commission for even considering an expansion. How can you suggest expanding an enterprise that runs a deficit, month after month after month? You want me to support a facility built to incarcerate criminals from Davis County, fine - build it and staff it so that it breaks even; however, when you choose to house "renters" at below cost - you're a foolish servant Mr./Ms. Commissioner. Would Marriott or Hilton build or expand on a hotel that they can only fill up at a loss? This is a silly discussion and I salute Farmington's resolution against expansion.
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