Westminster Faculty, Students Present Health Impact Assessment of Prison Relocation

Oct 22, 2014

Oct. 15, 2014 Westminster team contracted to research health impact of potential prison move from Draper to Tooele SALT LAKE CITY - Over the past four months, a team of Westminster faculty and students have been conducting a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on the potential relocation of the Utah State Prison in Draper to Tooele County. The group presented their findings to the residents and local officials of Tooele County at the Tooele County Health Department on October 15, 2014. Westminster public health professors, Dr. John Contreras and Dr. Kristine Lynch, along with graduate students Heather Bertotti Sarin (lead researcher), Brenda Henderson and Mercedes Rodriguez, were contracted by Tooele County in May of 2014 to conduct the assessment to provide decision makers with information about the potential impacts on human health, both positive and negative, that may be experienced by the prison relocation. "This study provides the Tooele County Health Department and the Tooele community with information on the health impacts of a potential prison move," said Contreras. "There are various aspects for a host community to consider, and our focus was on the health effects to Tooele County in areas such as infectious disease and crime rate. Wherever the state prison is relocated, it is important for the community to understand the potential health impacts for the planning, construction and operation phases of a successful prison move." The HIA assesses health impact in four categories: environmental, health services, social/cultural and economic impact. Throughout their research, the team utilized methods such as screening, scoping, assessing and reporting/evaluating to gather data. "One of our goals was to obtain feedback from Tooele County residents which included interviews with various healthcare professionals and community members," said Bertotti Sarin. "The community survey we conducted included both face-to-face and online responses and had over 575 participants, which showed this is a topic of interest. The respondents provided thoughtful feedback on their concerns about a prison move to their area which should be incorporated into a prison relocation plan." The findings of the HIA addressed issues such as the impact of a move on mental health services, air quality, housing and employment, and provided several recommendations by the Westminster team to help mitigate some of the potential challenges involved with a prison relocation. "Our findings indicated areas such as mental health should be reviewed to ensure that services provided, available resources, and funding are sufficient to keep up with the community needs," added Lynch. "Vulnerable populations such as children, elderly, homeless persons and people in poverty should be considered during a prison move. "  

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About Westminster

Westminster is a private, independent, and comprehensive college in Salt Lake City, Utah. Students experience the liberal arts blended with professional programs in an atmosphere dedicated to civic engagement. With the goal of enabling its graduates to live vibrant, just, and successful lives, Westminster provides transformational learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students in a truly student-centered environment. Faculty focus on teaching, learning, and developing distinctive, innovative programs, while students thrive on Westminster’s urban Sugar House campus within minutes of the Rocky Mountains.

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