This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I have an idea that might help the homeless, mentally ill and criminal element in the Salt Lake Valley. Rather than sell the Utah State Prison in Draper, continue its original use for inmates. Use it for a tent city if there are no jail facilities available for drug sellers and more aggressive law breakers in the Rio Grande area.
Use the new prison land to build a mental health facility, so sorely needed in the valley. Transitional housing and group homes could be built in the same area. Have it become a safe environment for the residents, especially children and vulnerable adults. Include a health clinic, possibly affiliated with the University of Utah.
The biggest arguments against this idea would be the state Legislature, land developers anxious to make a profit on the Draper site and lack of Medicaid funding. Very possibly some of the funding would need to come from foundations, nonprofits, churches and public donations.
The argument for a new prison is the need for prisoner rehabilitation, job training and re-entry into society. Surely the current site could be adapted for those programs.
The mentally ill, homeless, veterans and chronically ill deserve the same benefits.