University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

The Prioritization of the Prisoner Community Versus the Host-Community in the Relocation of Utah’s Draper State Prison

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June 2018

Anna Silver


A sea of carceral facilities has quietly seeped across the U.S. in the past several decades, yet almost no peer-reviewed research documenting the effect of a prison’s location on prisoners exists. To begin reversing this silence, this paper realizes a case study of the siting process used to relocate Utah’s Draper State Prison to Salt Lake City in 2015. Using official reports and audio from deliberation meetings, the analysis seeks to determine whether the siting process prioritized the wellbeing of the “outside” community—defined as the local natural ecology and the host-community residents—over that of the “inside” community—defined as the prisoners—in consideration of environmental factors. Ultimately, the study finds no evidence of a clear prioritization of either group by the commission—the state legislators tasked with the siting decision—who primarily discussed how environmental factors would hinder construction. Furthermore, the high poverty rates of the host-community complicate the initial assumption that prisoners would be vastly less politically enfranchised than those on the outside. As the first study to explore the effects of prison siting on prisoners themselves, this research exposes the need of continued research regarding America’s urban prisons and the intersection of the environment and incarceration.

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