Utah Prison Relocation Presents Textbook NIMBY Example

Utah prison relocation

Photo: DR04/Wikimedia Commons

With the growth of the Utah prison population not showing any signs of slowing and the vote by 2014 Utah Legislature to move the current Draper prison, a Prison Relocation Commission was assembled and tasked with finding the best site for the new prison. Several options were created and many sites have been suggested and considered. However, the committee is finding that when it comes to the Utah prison relocation effort, while many Utahns may support stricter penalties for criminal activity and oppose decriminalization of certain drug offenses, few residents want to see the necessary infrastructure required to support such a legal system in their backyard.

Brief History of the Utah Prison Relocation Efforts

The growth rate of the Utah inmate population is being estimated at approximately 2 percent per year, a projection which puts the current prison location in Draper short thousands of beds over the next two decades. According to reports from KSL News, in January of 2014, a study put together by an independent firm hired to help with the Utah prison relocation presented four options for making the move as soon as 2018, or as late as 2024. These options ranged from immediate demolition of the prison located at Point of the Mountain, with or without increases in jail capacities, to two options that would phase out the Draper prison with differing final end dates.

A fifth option was to keep Draper as the prison site for the next 50 years, but according to Prison Relocation Commission member and Utah State Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, there will still be “a massive dollar figure behind not relocating the prison.” Most agree that the best move is the prison relocation.

In June, it was announced that the state would start developing criteria for a new location, such as ease of access, pre-existing infrastructure, and a population base able to staff and volunteer at the facility. The Commission would also be focusing on a few communities in specific.

While speculation abounded, the names of these communities weren’t released to the public until October, and even then the Commission stated they might have been premature. Regardless, residents of many of the communities have already started voicing their opposition to the Utah prison relocation into their neighborhood. Owen Jackson, the manager of public relations and economic development for Saratoga Springs, one of the communities on the potential list, stated, “We don’t have an interest in it being in our community…It doesn’t fit.” A Facebook page dedicated to opposition of the relocation has already garnered over 1,000 signatures on a petition.

In addition to Saratoga Springs, the Commission seems to have narrowed the list to three other sites, all of which are in Salt Lake County. Two potential sites in Tooele County were taken off the list after the decision that they were too far from the current site in Draper, but also because of “lukewarm community support,” with only 44 percent of the County residents in favor of the move.

Utah Prison Relocation and NIMBY

NIMBY is an acronym which stands for “Not In My Back Yard” and reflects an attitude held by some that while a new development may be good or necessary—anything from transportation hubs to group homes to strip malls. And yes, prisons—they don’t necessarily want that type of development going up in their neighborhood.

Arguments against such development include:

  • Decreased property values
  • Increased traffic
  • Additional environmental, light, or noise pollution
  • Strain of public resources
  • Increased crime

Many of these factors influence the dissent of those who oppose the Utah prison relocation into their “back yard,” even if the development may benefit the community. According to Randy Sant, an economic development consultant, the Utah prison relocation could have the same impacts as “a major industry coming into the community.”

Even though it’s hard to argue the economic advantages of such a move, early on it was recognized that finding a location might be difficult. Bob Nardi, a consultant with the same firm that composed the independent study for the State, stressed the importance of finding a willing and receptive community. “What cannot be engineered is a community that is not interested.”

However, choosing an appropriate location for a prison goes beyond which community the Commission believes should benefit economically. Several other factors play into the decision more than perhaps where to locate a new strip mall. Even though Owen Jackson stated a prison didn’t “fit” in Saratoga Springs, according to the Prison Relocation Commission, they have all of the qualifications.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, was quoted as saying that the potential Saratoga Springs site had neighboring facilities “that are probably compatible” with a prison, such as an asphalt plant, power corridor, Camp Williams, and Bureau of Land Management property. Stevenson believes these commodities make the site an area unattractive to other residential development.

Other criteria considered for the Utah prison relocation sites included a 100 point scale with factors such as proximity to staff, volunteers and families of inmates at the Point of the Mountain prison. Community acceptance was given a point value of 15. Clearly the residents of these communities believe that number should be higher.

Something’s Gotta Give

While the overpopulation of prison systems reflects the decisions of individuals to commit crimes, it can’t be denied that it is also demonstrative of a society that believes in a criminal justice system that imposes more and longer sentences for those crimes, a system which has been shown in numerous studies to be ineffective in regards to reducing rates of recidivists [repeat offenders].

A council chairman for another of the communities being researched as a potential site went so far as to say, “There’s a sense of frustration at the thought that the state would consider putting a prison complex in our community. It’s just surprising.”

An interesting question to put to those citizens would be what their solution is to the growing prison population. Would they be willing to support programs aimed at reducing redicivism through other means besides increasing prison sentences? Such as the treatment programs that Rep. Hutchings is working toward through a subgroup he is leading. If not, their proverbial “hat in the ring” should be as fair game as other communities able to support a new prison.

While the Prison Relocation Commission stated in June that they would like to have a site selected before the start of the 2015 Legislature in January, it looks like the time table may have to be pushed back so long as opposition is so strong.

Man Arrested for Jaywalking, Drug Paraphernalia, Previous Warrants

drug paraphernalia

Photo: Espiritusanctus/Wikimedia commons

A minor infraction will lead to big trouble for a Salt Lake man stopped for jaywalking in Salt Lake. In addition to jaywalking, the man was arrested for being in possession of drug paraphernalia and previous warrants.

One Crime at a Time

There is an old adage known to most criminals. “One crime at a time.” For example, when driving a stolen car, don’t break the speed limit as well. This is something that Tyson Bate, 25, would have been wise to remember before jaywalking with drug paraphernalia on his person and warrants in his past.

On Thursday, Oct. 30, Bate exited a vehicle along the roadside near 1800 S. State Street. According to a report from KSL News, after getting out of the car, Bate immediately proceeded to walk across State Street against the light and was nearly hit by an officer.

“[A]n officer was driving in his marked police car north on State Street and almost hit the guy because he either ran or walked right in front of him,” Salt Lake police detective Dennis McGowan said.

On the stop, Bate was compliant, but when the officer went to look up Bate’s information, he fled. A pursuit ensued involving other officers and Bate was arrested on suspicion of drug paraphernalia, jaywalking, fleeing from police, and his other warrants, which including a variety of charges including others for possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance, and theft.

Drug Paraphernalia was the Problem

For Bate, the incident of jaywalking might have simply resulted in a warning depending on traffic conditions at the time. However, being in possession of drug paraphernalia is not just a “warning” offense in Utah. According to the Utah Drug Paraphernalia Act, “it is unlawful for any person to use, or possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia”. The offense is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

If you or someone you know has been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia or any other crime, be sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who has your best interests in mind.

GPS Stalking Addressed by Multiple Pieces of Legislation

Various legislation addresses GPS stalking

Photo: Beao/Wikimedia commons

While the world is changing, the fact that people are still suspicious of one another, even those they are supposed to be most intimately attached to, remains the same. The technological changes in the world means there are entirely new ways to keep tabs on someone suspected of wrongdoing. Gone are the days are hiring a private investigator or taking on the task personally, trying to covertly follow the suspected party. Also gone are the days when this might have been considered legal in many states. A recent form of tracking, GPS stalking, is a problem that is being addressed by several pieces of legislation on both a state and national level.

Current Laws for GPS Stalking

GPS stalking is tracking someone’s movements using a Global Positioning System (GPS). Such systems are found in many types of cars and smartphones, but they are also available as individual devices which can be covertly attached to a vehicle or stealth apps which can be put on smartphones and monitored.

It has been estimated that in 2006, before smartphones were as prevalent as they are today, more than 25,000 cases of domestic violence were linked specifically to GPS stalking. A recent law in New York known as Jackie’s Law puts more modern numbers to the phenomenon, stating that one out of every four stalking cases nationwide involve some form of tracking technology.

Jackie’s Law was named for Jackie Winiewski, a woman who was murdered two years ago in New York by her boyfriend. Previous to her death, Winiewski had discovered her boyfriend had placed a GPS device on her car, but New York law at the time didn’t allow for prosecution. Jackie’s Law was recently signed into effect in New York, but many are wondering if it is enough. The gist of the law is that it is now illegal to commit GPS stalking, under one condition: the person being tracked must make it clear that electronic tracking is unwelcome. The obvious gray area deals with the fact that GPS stalking would still be legal if the person didn’t know about it.

Currently GPS tracking is legal in many cases, such as for parents monitoring the activity of their children, law enforcement using them for investigations, companies tracking the use of a company vehicle, and even car rental companies, although in the latter situation, many states require the company to notify the renters of such a device. Vehicle owners are allowed to have tracking devices on their car, but some states designate that it is illegal to track a co-owner of the vehicle, such as a spouse.

In Utah, GPS stalking [stalking, in general] is considered an “offense against the person” according to Utah Code 76-5-106.5. The offense ranges from a class A misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending largely on whether or not the offender has been convicted of stalking before or if he/she used a dangerous weapon in the commission of the crime. While the law is unclear whether or not the victim has to first state that they don’t want to be tracked in order for GPS stalking to be punishable by the law, it does clearly state that it is illegal to use “a computer, the Internet, text messaging, or any other electronic means.”

GPS Stalking Legislation on the Table

There are two pieces of legislation currently in the spotlight. Following the lead of Jackie’s Law, Sen. Charles Shumer, D-New York, is promoting a bill that would make any form of electronic stalking illegal nationwide. Concern of the bill is the same concern mentioned in regards to Jackie’s Law. Specifically, enforcement becomes an issue if someone doesn’t know they are being GPS stalked. In addition, attorney Peter Pullano stated that if such a bill becomes law, it would have to be constantly amended to keep up with the changing face of technology.

Another piece of legislation that relates to one of Shumer’s motivations in proposing his legislation aims more specifically at apps that offenders are using to track their victims. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has introduced the Location and Privacy Act to address the fact that there is no federal law banning apps that seem directly related to GPS stalking. While some of these apps claim to be aimed at parents who want to keep track of their teens, other apps make no attempt to hide the fact that they are advertising to men or women who fear their partner is being unfaithful. One such firm even advertised, “total control of your partner’s phone without them even knowing it.”

In many cases, the offender gives the phone to their partner with the app already installed, but in some cases, they will secretly install the app on the victim’s phone. Either way, Franken considers it an invasion of privacy and tantamount to GPS stalking. Critics of the legislation point out that while some apps definitely seem to be aimed at stalking, other apps offer legitimate GPS services, including apps limiting the use of phones of teen drivers or to monitor people with early-stage dementia.

Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation was quoted as saying, “Congress could and should ban the marketing and sale in the United States of apps advertised and marketed as stalking apps, but that would not prevent would-be stalkers from using a legitimate tracking app for off-label purposes.”

Given the domestic violence statistics and the facts that GPS stalking may have even been responsible for offenders being able to find their murder victims, it is clear that the threat needs to be addressed beyond current law. However, it seems that the considerable “gray area” will need to be explored before proposed legislation is going to be as effective as it needs to be.