A committee that recommended on Monday that the state move forward with plans to relocate the Utah State Prison said the expense may be balanced by potential savings in labor costs. But the prison already appears to be operating on its front lines at an efficiency level that exceeds a number of other states, according to one corrections survey.
At the state's main prison in Draper, there is one staff person per 3.2 inmates, a ratio that includes all employees correctional officers, support staff, administrators, etc. But when only correctional officers through the rank of captain are included, the ratio is one staff person per 11 inmates.
At the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, the ratio is one staff person for every 4.26 inmates with all employees included. Counting only correctional officers, the ratio is one staff person per 14 inmates.
Those correctional-officer ratios are higher than in states with prison populations comparable to the 6,814 inmates incarcerated in Utah. In West Virginia, for example, there is about one officer per 6 inmates, according to a survey conducted by the Association of State Correctional Administrators in 2010. In Delaware, there is one correctional officer per 4.2 inmates.
Utah's ratio also is higher than in some states with much larger prison populations, such as Alabama, which had a total prison population of 25,382 and a ratio of one correctional officer per 9.9 inmates; in Colorado, which had 14,364 inmates, there was one officer for every 4.9 inmates.
"We are talking about doing a job that is increasingly more difficult without throwing more numbers at it," said Robyn Williams, a deputy director. "That is a credit to our staff."
But Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, thinks the state can do even better and that the savings will largely pay the relocation tab, which an early estimate put at $500 million to $600 million to tear down and rebuild the prison.
"The goal is to be more competitive," said Jenkins, spokesman for the Prison Relocation and Development Authority (PRADA). "We think we can. This is just not a relocation committee. It is also a relocation and program development committee. They are supposed to look at programs ... and we think we can be more efficient and effective in the way we do this. If we can't come up with the proper efficiencies then we can't afford to move the prison."
PRADA made its recommendation after receiving preliminary presentations about how to approach a relocation project from six interested parties, some individual companies and some consortiums. The entities that met with the committee and provided information are:
Deseret Corrections Center of Bountiful • Represented by Thomas Mabey. One of Utah's largest construction companies, it offers design, build and management services and has built a wide variety of projects in Utah and other states, including the Energy Solutions Arena, Miller Motor Sports Park and the San Juan Detention Center in Aztec, New Mexico.
CGL of Alpharetta, Ga., a Hunt Company • Represented by Buddy Johns. Carter Goble Lee, acquired by the Hunt Company this summer, specializes in planning, design, program management and maintenance of justice facilities.
Dewberry Architects Inc. of Virginia • Represented by Gerald P. Guerrero of its Sacramento office. It plans, designs, engineers, manages and consultants on a wide variety of public/private sector projects, such as the Oklahoma Forensic Center.
The Molasky Group of Companies of Las Vegas • Represented by Richard S. Worthington. A real estate development and management company, it specializes in design, build, finance and lease-to-own public/private projects. It has built several correctional facilities in Nevada.
Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville • Represented by Lucibeth Mayberry. Founder of the private corrections management industry, it designs, constructs and manages prisons, jails and detention centers. It is the fifth largest corrections system in the U.S., with more than 60 facilities that house 80-000-plus inmates.
Point West Ventures of Alpine, Utah • Represented by Mike Sibbett, a former chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. Other principals include Robin Riggs, who served as general counsel for former Gov. Mike Leavitt and as associate counsel to the Utah Legislature, and Al Mansell, a former state senator and Realtor. Point West is as leadership group which formed four years ago to bring together entities to evaluate and oversee relocating the prison and economic development of the current prison property.
The committee did not make any recommendation on where to move the prison, though its discussions focused on Rush Valley in Tooele County.
But Jenkins said: "We have not settled on any area at all."
Members of the Prison Relocation and Development Authority
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, owns Great Western Supply, a plumbing wholesaler in Ogden and Salt Lake City
Sen. Dan Thatcher, R-West Valley City (whose area includes part of Salt Lake County and Tooele), independent electronics and low voltage wiring contractor
Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, owns Destination Homes Inc., Ben Lomand Land, Discovery Development, Easton Holdings, real estate and development companies
Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, computer programmer for Image Learning
Spencer Eccles, executive director, Governor's Office of Economic Development
John Bennett, Governor's Office of Planning and Budget
Jeff Hartley, political consultant and lobbyist
Gregg Buxton, director, Utah Division of Facilities and Construction Management
Tom Patterson, outgoing director Utah Department of Corrections
Draper Mayor Darrell Smith
Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson