Many agonies have been expressed lately about the possible relocation of the Utah State Prison on land smack in the middle of Tooele Valley between Tooele and Grantsville cities.
I don’t want it placed in that specific location either — partly because I see no reason to make the Miller family any richer with state funds — but as to the idea of building the prison in greater Tooele County, I see great potential.
You see, there are actually two Tooele Counties: The Tooele Valley and Rush Valley part, and then the rest. Face it people, we live in one of the driest, most desolate counties in the U.S. and most of our landmass at present serves only one worthy purpose: to keep Wendover at a safe distance from Salt Lake City. It would be foolish not to find other ways to take advantage of our geographic uniqueness.
I propose we re-purpose some of our wasteland. A prison smack in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats would, in some ways, be ideal. You wouldn’t have to guard it much. If a prisoner goes “over the wall,” he’ll get a good long look at the endless flats of utter desolation around him and it won’t be long before he will be clamoring to get back in.
However, prisoners do need some services and putting the slammer way out there where even God would have trouble finding them would be impractical. They would need access to courts and hospitals, for instance, and should be accessible for the occasional “Scared Straight” bus tour.
So, I propose the next-best option: Let’s build the Big House just over the Stansbury Mountains in the barren starkness of Skull Valley. This location is isolated but still accessible, thanks to the Interstate 80 corridor, to the needed services of Salt Lake City. Think of it. Tooele County would still get all the benefits of maintaining a brand new, state-of-the-art poky and judges would have the cathartic advantage of sending convicted criminals to the ominous-sounding “Skull Valley Prison.”
With such a name, we could even market it to other states and the feds as another famous “dreaded” destination. Think of T-shirts that say “Alcatraz. Sing Sing. Skull Valley.”
The still fairly remote prison location would have another advantage. Unlike his victim, a convicted murderer serving life in prison still has the ability to be visited by his family and friends on occasion. The farther out he is incarcerated, the less likely he will get such visits, thus introducing, however slight, a little more justice in our penal system.
Another advantage? “We the people” already own the land — at least theoretically. Wading through the bureaucratic nightmare of our aptly-named hired stewards of said land, the Bureau of Land Management, will be no walk in the park, or desert. But I think, with patience, it can be done.
So let’s bring it on! A prison in Skull Valley would be an economic boon to Tooele County. And, while having the advantages of isolation, still be close enough to the services required in the city. It also has the potential of putting some lettering in that blank spot on the map that is most of Tooele County. “The Skull Valley Prison.” You have to admit that sounds pretty cool.
Hamilton is a Tooele resident and a graphic artist for Transcript Bulletin Publishing. His views on the relocation of the Utah State Prison do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.