How Utah’s Inland Port, the new state prison, and a proposed immigrant detention center are all connected
By Brinley Froelich
A saga that began in 2012 led us to believe that the current state prison in Draper was insufficient, and a relocation commission was created by members of the Utah Senate, many of whom were motivated by the value of the real estate that would rise by switching sites. Among the 30 or so site considerations, Salt Lake’s western quadrant was finally chosen.
Despite environmental reports that showed the area was vulnerable to groundwater contamination, flooding, and severe damage during an earthquake, the ground has now been broken and construction began. People confined within the prison walls may be susceptible to limited, toxic, or no access to potable water, and sensitive ecologies with endangered wildlife are put at risk with new development.
Salt Lake City opposed this move until they, too, figured they could benefit from the relocation by creating an economic “hub”, thus starting conversations about an Inland Port. Now engaged in a lawsuit over who has jurisdiction, the city and state are not as concerned about the well-being of Utahns, but rather about who receives the checks.
As all this plays out, ICE ramped up deportations in the Rocky Mountain region — despite local police agreeing not to cooperate, for now — and requests for proposals to build a new immigrant prison to serve the increase in arrests created another business opportunity for Utah-based private prison company, Management & Training Corporation. The new detention center will be built in Evanston, Wyoming — 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Despite politicians who mention that Utah is engaged in criminal justice reform, our prison and jail populations are rising. While the national incarcerated population dropped 1.2%, Utah’s rose 4.3%, making it the second-highest growing incarceration rate in the nation (and to note, this increase does not match the rise in population).
These so-called “development” projects all raise the questions: Who is benefitting from the exploitation, criminalization, and incarceration of our communities? What lies are being told to push these projects forward? And how do we join together across strategically placed lines of division to fight against them, amplify the truth, and demand the investment and self-determination our communities need to survive and thrive?
It’s time to reimagine and redefine what #SafetyIs for our communities — beyond prisons, policing, and fear. Join us at Night Out for Safety & Liberation on Tuesday, August 6th at the Glendale Public Library from 6–8pm.
Brinley Froelich is the co-founder of Decarcerate Utah, an abolitionist group focused on educating the community about alternatives to the prison industrial complex. Find them on twitter and instagram or subscribe to their newsletter.