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Utah Prisoners May Build Own Cages

In a 1997 Utah state budget bill, the legislature directed that an "inmate construction and building maintenance" program be developed.

"The purpose of this program should be to expand inmate employment in construction-related fields in order to provide training for the inmate and a cost savings to the state," according to the bill.

As a result of that legislation, an 18-member committee was impaneled to study the issue. The committee issued its draft report in May. The report's recommendations include constructing a facility at the Draper prison that would manufacture precast concrete panels, and a metal fabrication plant where prisoners would make cell furniture and fixtures. Finally, work crews of prisoners would be used on-site for specific portions of construction.

"Throughout the committee meetings,'' the draft report said, "members were sensitive to possible concerns that private-sector businesses and workers might be negatively impacted by utilization of inmates in prison construction. It appeared, however, that there was broad support for expanding the Department of Corrections involvement in prison construction utilizing inmate labor."

Utah correctional industries director Richard Clasby said Utah's current construction boom, including the massive rebuilding of Interstate 15 through Salt Lake county, has blunted any competitive jockeying from private construction firms.

Salt Lake Tribune

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