Project to Watch: Utah Prison Underway, Despite Questions

SALT LAKE CITY — On Dec. 19, work officially began on access roads to the planned new prison in Salt Lake City, putting the project on track for its scheduled 2020 completion date. However, locals are questioning if its 4,000-bed capacity will be too large for the state’s future corrections needs and whether or not the state will need to accommodate cost overruns on the project, which is currently estimated to be $650 million.

Designed by locally based GSBS Architects, the new prison will replace the 4,000-bed state prison in Draper; however, there are only about 3,000 inmates currently housed at the facility, and the state is currently working on shortening sentences for nonviolent crimes as part of its Justice Reinvestment Initiative, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

In late December, Rollin Cook, Utah Department of Corrections executive director, addressed members of the state’s House of Representatives about future prison needs, stating that it is difficult to predict future prison needs, especially since the state is merely one year into a program aimed to shorten sentences and focus on rehabilitation. Plus, it’s still too early to tell how lawmakers may want to change policies in upcoming legislative sessions.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Cook believes building the 4,000-inmate capacity now will save money instead of building a future round of units. He added that Utah is growing in population, and the new prison facility can help accommodate that growth. In fact, when the prison is completed, the 334-acre site will have the ability to house as many as 6,000 inmates within its secure perimeter.

James Russell, deputy director of the state’s building division, said that even though work has begun, a final decision on the prison size can actually be made as late as spring 2018, according to the construction schedule, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.

State officials are also worried about the rise in construction costs, especially after the estimated $350 million Salt Lake City International Airport now may cost as much as $2.9 billion. Russell said that the state plans to line up subcontractors and vendors soon to help control costs, with the first contractors going out for bid this summer, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

A joint venture between locally headquartered Big-D Construction Corp. and Phoenix-based Kitchell (called BDK) was chosen to serve as the project’s management and technical consultant, while a joint venture between Layton Construction Company and Okland Construction — both of which have offices in Salt Lake City — are serving as construction manager.

As one of Correctional News’ 5 Projects to Watch in 2016, stay tuned for future coverage as the project unfolds.