This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
First, it was the Prison Relocation Commission looking to put a state penitentiary in Salt Lake City. Now, it's a contractor for the Federal Bureau of Prisons that is seeking to expand a halfway house in the capital.
Mayor Ralph Becker called a news conference Tuesday to say he isn't having any of it.
"We are researching every possible approach to prevent this [halfway house] from expanding," he said, noting the city's legal team is evaluating whether it can be blocked through zoning regulations.
Becker also said he will continue to fight a separate recommendation to move the state prison to Salt Lake City's west side. The Prison Relocation Commission has said it would announce its decision Aug. 1.
The proposal to increase by 115 beds a privately run federal halfway house at 1585 W. 2100 South in the Glendale area landed on Becker's desk March 30. The Boca Raton-based GEO Reentry Inc., a federal contractor, presently operates the facility.
As part of the process to obtain a federal contract, a private prison contractor must notify the jurisdiction in which it wants to operate of its intent. The March 30 letter is one of the initial steps in that months-long process.
Among Becker's stated reasons for opposing GEO's expansion is that Glendale already has its share of such facilities: four state halfway houses and the federal halfway house.
"It creates a stigma for the neighborhood," the mayor said at the news conference. "When we have looked at correctional facilities of this type, we see the neighborhood is more vulnerable to crime."
In a letter to Kevin Hoff at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Becker reinforced that message: "Salt Lake City already is home to a disproportionate number of transitional beds, in the form of halfway houses and parole violator centers ... and it is patently unfair that our city's neighborhoods continue to suffer the negative impact of transitional facilities no matter how well run."
City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, whose District 2 encompasses Glendale and Poplar Grove, said that Glendale already has four of the six halfway houses operated by the Utah Department of Corrections. A fifth is just across the city line in South Salt Lake. That's in addition to the federal Residential Reentry Center in Glendale that GEO wants to expand.
"It would be easy to mischaracterize this as a NIMBY [Not In My Backyard] issue," LaMalfa said. "But all of the halfway houses are in my backyard. It's not right."
Further, LaMalfa said, his district has underperforming schools, a woeful mass-transit system and a dearth of job opportunities.
"How are parolees going to transition back into society," he said, "if we put them in areas of no opportunity?"
Neither Hoff at the Federal Bureau of Prisons nor a representative for GEO could be reached Tuesday.
Becker said he plans to enlist Utah's congressional delegation to help thwart the halfway house expansion.
He also expects to call on all Salt Lake City residents to join a campaign to dissuade the state Prison Relocation Commission from selecting the capital as the new site for the state prison, now in Draper.