This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Salt Lake County rebuffed a recent overture from legislative leaders interested in purchasing the county's dormant Oxbow jail and potentially turning it into a detention center for undocumented immigrants.
House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, said Monday that he has been interested for years in having the state acquire the 560-bed jail, and broached the topic before the legislative session with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem.
One possibility considered for the jail was to use it to detain undocumented immigrants who commit crimes until federal immigration officials could take them into custody.
"I don't want to go out there and start arresting illegal immigrants," Curtis said, but added that, "If we have illegal immigrants who are breaking the law, we have a duty to the citizens of the state to arrest them and detain them."
The idea of the state buying the Oxbow jail from the county has been around for years, but it has not, in the past, been proposed as a detention center for immigrants and talks always broke down over the cost.
There were some discussions between the county and legislative leaders, but county officials eventually nixed the idea.
Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder continues to cling to the mothballed jail as an escape valve for the population-pinched Adult Detention Center.
"From a purely public safety perspective, there is no way to make sense of a sale of that facility," he said. "I absolutely would not be in favor of it."
Curtis says that taxpayers built the facility and it doesn't make sense for it to sit idle while taxpayers have to pay to build other jails or prisons.
"We were told, 'No, it's not going to happen,' " Curtis said. "I'm looking at it saying, 'Doesn't that bother anybody else?' "