SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – We’re now getting a look behind the scenes at the new Utah State Prison under construction in Salt Lake City. The prison is roughly 80% finished, and you can already see what makes it superior to the old one in Draper. ABC4’s Brian Carlson gives us a tour, in this edition of Behind the Badge.
High fencing, barbed wire, and construction crews busy at work are all visible right now on site of the new Utah State Prison being built west of the Salt Lake City International Airport. The Utah Department of Corrections expects to complete construction in less than 75 days. So before inmates move in, ABC4 News toured the 300-acre lot to check it out.
“So this would be one of the main areas where prisoners would have their cells?” asked Reporter Brian Carlson, ABC4 News.
“Correct,” said Steve Turley, Director of Special Prison Projects, Utah Dept. of Corrections.
Former Warden Steve Turley helped design the new prison and said it’s a significant upgrade from the old site in Draper.
“More light obviously, some of the control rooms in Draper are dismal. These have more light, it’s more roomy here,” said Turley. “That’s done so our inmates and staff alike can work in a brighter more upbeat environment.”
Each housing unit now has its own medical and dental rooms, reducing the need to take inmates outside prison walls for treatment. All units have two televisions, and kiosks are soon equipped with computers so inmates can email their loved ones directly.
All areas of the prison will now have direct supervision and be more efficient. For more dangerous criminals, new glass double walls will allow inmates to come out of their cells to handle daily basics without putting officers at risk.
“Whenever these offenders are around our staff, they have to be restrained so now they can come out, go to the shower, come back out go back in… without ever having to be restrained,” said Turley.
“Here in maximum security, you may expect to find areas like a solitary confinement or death row but that doesn’t exist in the new prison. Corrections staff say more than what an offender does on the outside it’s how they act on the inside that determines where they’re housed,” said Carlson.
“It’s due to their attitude and behavior not due to their crime,” Turley said.
It may also surprise you, certain inmates with good behavior are on the construction crew helping complete the prison.
“I’m assuming you have a level of trust in these inmates you have on the construction site?” Carlson asked.
“Yeah, they’ve gained a level of classification that allows them to be supervised outside,” Turley said.
Seeing who’s building it and what’s behind the barbed wire may be different than you expect, but Turley tells ABC4 News its vast improvement from Draper.
“A lot of things we’ve incorporated in this prison in this facility is going to help staff and offenders alike,” he said.
Hopefully, this will be the last time viewers at home see it from the inside.
When you look at the new prison by the numbers, it covers roughly 1.3 million sq ft and will employ about 700 corrections staff, which are both slightly more than Draper. Once finished it will house 3,806 inmates, which is about 100 or so less than the Draper site.