The state of Utah broke ground this week on a new $650 million state prison near Salt Lake City, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) officials said the new facility will have up to 4,000 beds as well as classrooms and open spaces that aim to create a less-severe environment than other prisons. Inmates will also be able to take part in wildlife and wetland rehabilitation programs, as well as art and job training initiatives.
DOC Director Rollin Cook said 95% of inmates will eventually be released, and that the state has an obligation to ensure that those individuals are better off when they reenter society.
More than 90% of prisoners only serve sentences of a few years, and two-thirds of prisoners commit another crime within three years of being released from prison, according to a 2012 op-ed in The New York Times penned by James Gilligan, a clinical professor of psychiatry and an adjunct professor of law at New York University. Educational and treatment programs in a residential-style setting, he wrote, are the keys to reducing violence in prisons and keeping inmates from becoming reoffenders.
Prison design is significantly affected by the kinds of programs the state puts in place for inmates. Bethany Davis, now the director of marketing and strategic content at CoreCivic, told Construction Dive in June that all states specify some type of enrichment programs, ranging from educational to vocational to life-skills training. For example, if a prison offers GED courses, the design must include classroom space. If inmates are able to learn how to repair vehicles, the layout would include an automotive shop-like facility.
Construction programs are a critical part of the push to ready inmates for life after they are released. In addition to providing inmates with an opportunity to learn a trade, these training initiatives create skilled workers in a time of labor shortages. CoreCivic has welding and diesel mechanic training programs at two of its Georgia corrections facilities because the state of Georgia has a shortage of workers in those trades, Davis said.