Prison employees, inmates prepare to move

Posted at 6:46 PM, Mar 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-06 08:54:39-05

DRAPER -- Inside the Utah State Prison, everyone is just waiting to see what happens next.

"I follow the legislative session just like everyone else and see what they decide," said warden Alfred Bigelow.

The prison hosted reporters for a tour of the facility on Wednesday. As the legislature votes on resolutions to move the prison and make way for development on its 700-acre campus, the impact will be felt by everyone who works (and does time) here.

"There's a lot of uncertainty," said Capt. Ronald Wilson. "I tell people we are moving, it's just a matter of when."

Political leaders have backed the idea of relocating the prison, noting that the aging facility is running out of bed space as the population grows. On Tuesday, the Utah House voted 70-3 to support a relocation.

"I'm in a cell, a single-man cell and it's double-bunked," said Eric Brock, an inmate at the prison. "It's ridiculous. But I shouldn't have come to prison if I didn't like it, know what I mean?"

Brock was quietly practicing a guitar inside the prison chapel on Wednesday. In an interview with FOX 13, he said he had heard "bits and pieces" about the prison relocation proposals. He worried about programs to help inmates avoid becoming repeat offenders and volunteers who facilitate them.

"I just hope that if they do, they move somewhere close that we can have volunteers facilitate things like this," he said. "Otherwise we won't have this."

Chapel volunteer Nancy Webster said she opposed the idea of moving the prison.

"I don't believe that the development that would replace it would benefit the entire community," she said. "I don't believe it would serve as many people as this serves right now."

In a sign that a move appears inevitable, the Utah Department of Corrections confirmed it has deferred repairs to buildings. Inside the medium-security Oquirrh 1 Unit, plumbing problems have left holes in the ceiling -- and tiles remain missing.

Many inmates FOX 13 spoke with say they had no opinion on the move, except to say they hoped it would be close for education, vocational training and visitation from their families.

"My mother comes down, she visits," said inmate Chase Norman. "I still have their support. So I guess it's better being where we're at now, as opposed to moving farther away."

Warden Bigelow said he would like to see a location somewhere along the Wasatch Front.

"That would be ideal, but we don't get to decide that," he told reporters.