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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah residents pushed back against a planned prison relocation during a public meeting this week.
State lawmakers told a crowd of about 200 people that the question of whether the facility should leave Draper has already been decided, but many still asked why the prison should move at all.
Questions about keeping it in place drew applause at the meeting Wednesday night.
But state Sen. Jerry Stevenson, a Republican from Layton, told the crowd the decision had been made and the only question was where the new prison should go.
Utah officials say moving the 700-acre facility in Draper should free up prime real estate for development and open the way for a modern prison somewhere else with more room.
The list of potential sites has been narrowed to five, and the Prison Relocation Commission is hosting a series of public meetings for input on the final choice.
The commission has to select a new location by Aug. 1.
Lawmakers have narrowed down the list of potential new prison homes to five. The meeting was the first of three public forums with the commission.
Wednesday's session centered on a possible site about five miles west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker is against it. People at Wednesday's meeting voiced concerns for nearby wetlands and other issues.
Sophia Williams came to the meeting with a sign that read "No Prison in Salt Lake City," the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The resident of Salt Lake City's Rose Park neighborhood worried it would hurt her property values.
Computer programmer Leonard Andrews works near the proposed Salt Lake City site. He told the Deseret News that putting the 4,000-bed prison near Salt Lake City would halt nearby economic development.
Others, though, said the state needs a new facility. Ben and Michelle Aldana of Orem, who have both spent time in jail or prison, told the Tribune the new facility would offer better living conditions for inmates.
Ben Aldana said the current prison cells are "basically an animal cage" and don't help rehabilitated offenders.
Department of Corrections Director Rollin Cook also said a newer facility could help reduce the state's recidivism rate.
The next public meeting on the prison project is scheduled for May 28 in Grantsville, near two possible sites in Tooele County, one near Miller Sports Park and the other close to the Walmart distribution center in Grantsville.
The final two possible sites are in Utah County, one south of Eagle Mountain and the other near Fairfield.
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