West Valley Transition Branch opens

It’s common in Utah to hear about the opening of a facility connected to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

What’s uncommon about the West Valley Transition Branch is its targeted congregants: Those recently released from prison looking to continue the growth they made while incarcerated.

The Great Salt Lake District recently held an open house for the branch, tucked in an industrial section of West Valley near the I-215/201 interchange. Visitors included a number of leaders from both the church and the Utah Department of Corrections.

“We want this to be a place for them to progress,” said Don R. Clarke, president of the Great Salt Lake District, which oversees the West Valley location and six branches inside the Utah State Correctional Facility. “We provide an environment where they can (continue to) change. They have changed. But they can change back without support.”

Open to men and women, but not children, the location currently only has men attending. Branch President Mark Oborn noted that while participants were able to meet regularly during their incarceration, the location of many churches in the community – as well as the makeup of their congregations – often prevented members from attending there. Also, most such locations are not oriented to aid those recently released from prison.

“Typical wards and stakes are not set up to help them,” said Oborn. “We’re set up that way. Whatever their needs are, we want to help them.”

For Steven Nuttall, released from prison in January after 18 years, the branch “is a safe space.”

“There is no circumstance we’ll break parole,” he said while greeting visitors during the open house. “But it isn’t about not doing something, it’s about being engaged in life.”

In addition to providing a safe place to worship, the facility provides other resources, such as clothing and help with transportation. But both Oborn and Clarke say attendees aid each other as well.

“They help each other as much as we help them,” noted Clarke. “What we do is give them hope – and love.”