Agency History #790


In January 1852 the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah approved a memorial requesting a $60,000 appropriation from Congress for the construction of a territorial penitentiary. Their stated reason for the request follows: "The early erection of a substantial prison it is believed would not only tend to prevent crime, but also to reform the offenders and put them in the way of self support. The infancy of the Territory renders the erection of such a prison, at present, without the aid of Congress, too great a work for the finances of your memorialists" (Acts, Resolutions and Memorials, 1851/1852, page 219). In March 1853 Congress approved a $20,000 appropriation for the building of such. A site was chosen southeast of Salt Lake City--the present day location of Sugar House Park. Construction was finished in late 1854 and occupancy began in 1855. Federal legislation in 1871 placed the territorial prison under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshal. From then until 1896, the penitentiary was owned and operated by the Federal Government. In 1896, the buildings and surrounding lands were given to the newly created State of Utah and were designated as the Utah State Prison (Laws of Utah, 1896, chapter 81).

Authorization for construction of a new prison was given by the Legislature in 1937. It was to be built on a "pay-as-you-go" basis. A Draper farm site of 1009 acres, twenty-two miles south of Salt Lake City was chosen. After a work stoppage caused by World War II shortages, prisoners were moved to the new prison facility in 1951. Expansion of the Draper site has been continuous since that time. It is currently divided between two complexes--North Point (Agency 1638) and South Point (Agency 1639). North Point is comprised of the Lone Peak, Timpanogos and Olympus units. South Point is comprised of the Wasatch, Oquirrh and Uinta units. Additionally, the Central Utah Correctional Facility (Agency 1643) in Gunnison started receiving offenders in 1990. This facility serves as satellite housing to the Draper prison complex. Corrections jointly operated the Iron County-Utah State Correctional Facility (Agency 160) in Cedar City as well from 1987-2002. However, after 15 years of partnership with Iron County the Legislature decided to no longer fund the state side of the facility in July 2002.


All state prison facilities are operated by Corrections' Division of Institutional Operations (DIO) (Agency 743). The primary mission of the DIO is "to provide a continuum of confinement to control committed offenders so they may function in a manner which will not be harmful to themselves, staff, other offenders, or society" (Utah Department of Corrections 1995 Annual Report). The DIO attempts to fulfill their mission by: 1) maintaining a secure environment that prevents inmate escapes and violent inmate actions; 2) improving the effectiveness of recidivism reduction efforts through selected programming--e.g. training in basic literacy skills, career skills, job placement, etc.; 3) maintaining and replacing critical security equipment; and 4) providing quality staff training.


From its inception at Statehood until 1967 the government and control of the Utah State Prison was vested in the Board of Corrections. In 1967 the Division of Corrections was created within the Department of Health and Welfare (Agency 1116) (Laws of Utah, 1967, chapter 174). The Division became the authority of the State of Utah for corrections, and assumed many functions of the Board of Corrections. In 1985 the Division of Corrections became a Department under the supervision of an Executive Director who reports directly to the Governor (Laws of Utah, 1985, chapter 198). Thereafter, all prison functions came under the direction of the DIO.

The DIO is administered by a Director--who receives his appointment from the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections (Agency 229). Thereunder, North Point, South Point, and the Central Utah Correctional Facility are supervised by individual wardens. A seven-member Corrections Advisory Council (Agency 230) functions within the Department of Corrections as well. Members are appointed by the Governor for a term of four years with the consent of the Senate. The Council consults with the Department's Executive Director concerning agency programs, policies, budget requests, master plans, and the like.


When the Utah Penitentiary opened its doors in 1855, it was under the direction of three inspectors and one warden, whom the joint votes of the Legislative Assembly elected. While the warden was responsible for the convicts and the property--the inspectors were charged with the management of all other prison functions (Territorial Legislative Records, "An Act in Relation to the Penitentiary," 16 Jan 1855). In 1860 a law was passed changing the name of the "Inspectors of the Penitentiary" to the "Board of Directors of the Utah Penitentiary" (Territorial Legislative Records, "An Act in Relation to the Penitentiary," 20 Jan 1860). They functioned in this fashion until the Federal Government assumed control of the Penitentiary in 1871.

The first Legislature of the State of Utah provided for the governance of the re-claimed Penitentiary in 1896. The control of the State Prison was vested in a four-member Board of Corrections--appointed by the Governor. The officers of the State Prison were to consist of a warden, a deputy warden, one clerk, one physician, a matron, and as many keepers and guards as the warden and the board deemed necessary. The Board appointed the warden--and the warden in turn appointed all other officers and employees of the prison (Laws of Utah, 1896, chapter 81). This basic management structure remained intact well into the 20th-century. A legislative act increasing the number of members of the Board of Corrections and expanding its powers became effective in July 1951 (Laws of Utah, 1951, chapter 111). The creation of the Department of Corrections in 1985 led to the dissolution of the Board of Corrections as a policy making board and the creation of the Corrections Advisory Council (Laws of Utah, 1985, chapter 198).

COMPILED BY: Anissa O. Taylor, February 2003


Department of Corrections. Annual Reports, (Series 83950).

Havnes, Mark. 2002. Iron County Considers Direction for Jail. The Salt Lake Tribune, 11 July.

Hill, James B. "History of Utah State Prison: 1850-1952." M.S. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1952.

Legislative Assembly. Territorial legislative records, (Series 3150).

Legislature. Laws of Utah, (Series 83155).

Utah Department of Corrections website. 2003. Available from; Internet; accessed 26 Feb 2003.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.