Tooele County has been put on another list we don’t want to be on. This time we are on the list for places to relocate a new state prison. I understand that a few people believe that bringing the prison here will bring more jobs. Other than jobs, I haven’t heard of one other reason to support it for our area. I’m opposed to bringing the prison to anywhere in Tooele County and these are my reasons.
I grew up in a small town south of Gunnison, Utah. I passed through Gunnison all the time on my way to school, doctor, or just for trips “up north.” I saw the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) begin operation in Gunnison in 1990. It did supply some jobs for locals; however, a lot of the jobs came with educational and experience requirements that the locals didn’t have. The CUCF was a brand new facility and needed to be staffed from scratch. The state prison isn’t. How many jobs will really be available to local people? I have a friend who currently works at CUCF, but she commutes over an hour to get there. Is that a local job? A lot of the employees commute and do not live in Gunnison.
If you look at Main Street in Gunnison today, it pretty much looks the same as it did back in 1990. The jobs at the prison were not the answer to this small town’s economic problems. Businesses have opened, yet more have closed. My favorite malt shop closed last year. It had been opened since I was little. I’ve read studies that say other businesses are less willing to come and open in rural communities with prisons.
The biggest reason I oppose the prison anywhere in Tooele County is that I saw what happened in Gunnison when the prison opened. There was an unexpected influx of inmate families who followed their loved ones to Gunnison. If you look at the Gunnison 1990 census (when the prison opened) and then the 2000 census, their population increased by 84.4 percent. I’m not opposed to growth; but the families that arrived came with needs — needs that this little community was not prepared for, or able to handle financially. The small town did not have a lot of low income housing, temporary housing, etc., for these families.
I also saw its effects on the school system. Those families brought precious children who came with academic needs that the school was not prepared for. Spanish-speaking only classes had to be offered because of the number of children who didn’t speak English. The South Sanpete School District is small and it was the local taxpayers who paid for those extra teachers. Class sizes increased and more special education was needed. If the prison comes to Tooele County, some families will come to be closer. I don’t even want it on the Bonneville Salt Flats, because our communities will still be the closest and the most impacted.
If these reasons don’t convince you, think of your own pocketbook. You’ll be taxed more to build the prison. It will cost taxpayers more to move it then renovate it. Perhaps our property taxes will increase to help the school district. Perhaps our city and county taxes will increase with the need to provide more low income resources. Moving the prison is only going to benefit a few people and cost the rest of us millions.
Mathis is a Grantsville resident and belongs to the citizen’s group No Prison in Tooele County.