SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Now we get a behind-the-scenes look at the new Utah State Prison under construction in Salt Lake City. The prison is about 80% complete, and you can already see what makes it superior to Draper’s old one. ABC4’s Brian Carlson takes us on a tour in this edition of Behind the Badge.
Tall fences, barbed wire and construction crews busy at work are all visible right now at the site of the new Utah State Prison being built west of Salt Lake International Airport. City. The Utah Department of Corrections expects to complete construction in less than 75 days. So before the inmates moved in, ABC4 News visited the 300-acre lot to check it out.
“So this would be one of the main areas where the prisoners would have their cells?” asked journalist Brian Carlson, ABC4 News.
“Correct,” said Steve Turley, director of special prison projects, Utah Department of Corrections.
Former warden Steve Turley helped design the new prison and said it was a significant improvement over Draper’s old site.
“More light obviously, some of Draper’s control rooms are dismal. These have more light, it’s more spacious here,” Turley said. “This was done so that our inmates and staff could work in a brighter and more upbeat environment.”
Each accommodation unit now has its own medical and dental rooms, reducing the need to take inmates outside the prison walls for treatment. All units are equipped with two televisions and kiosks will soon be equipped with computers so that inmates can send e-mails directly to their loved ones.
All areas of the prison will now have direct surveillance and will be more efficient. For more dangerous criminals, new double glass walls will allow inmates to exit their cells to manage daily needs without putting officers at risk.
“Whenever these offenders are around our staff, they need to be restrained so they can now get out, shower, come back and back… without ever having to be restrained,” Turley said.
“Here in maximum security you might expect to find areas like solitary confinement or death row, but that doesn’t exist in the new prison. Correctional staff say more than what an offender does on the outside, it’s how they act on the inside that determines where they are housed,” Carlson said.
“It’s due to their attitude and their behavior and not their crime,” Turley said.
It may also surprise you, some inmates with good behavior are part of the construction team helping to complete the prison.
“I take it you have a level of trust in those inmates you have at the construction site?” asked Carlson.
“Yes, they have acquired a level of classification that allows them to be supervised outdoors,” Turley said.
Seeing who’s building it and what’s behind the barbed wire may be different than you’d expect, but Turley tells ABC4 News his big improvement over Draper.
“A lot of things that we’ve incorporated into this prison in this facility are going to help staff and offenders,” he said.
Hopefully, this will be the last time viewers at home see it from the inside.
When you look at the new prison in numbers, it covers about 1.3 million square feet and will employ about 700 prison staff, slightly more than Draper. When completed, it will house 3,806 inmates, about 100 fewer than the Draper site.