Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Wyoming Struggles With Understaffed Prisons

What happens when you don't have enough people to staff the prisons you build?

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — More than a third of the correctional officer jobs at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins are unfilled, making the remaining officers work extraordinary hours in a high-security environment.

State corrections officials say the shortages haven't affected safety at the prison, which now holds more than 600 inmates. But the head of the guards' union says officers are working so many hours that it's grinding them down and affecting their judgment.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has a long-running lawsuit against the state over conditions at the Rawlins prison, says it's concerned the officer shortage may have contributed to an incident in which an inmate was beaten by other inmates early this year.

Dee Garrison, who has worked at the prison since 1998, is president of the Wyoming Association of Correctional Employees, the union representing about 50 officers at the Rawlins prison.

"You're tired, you're exhausted. You're not as patient as you should be," Garrison said. "And in a prison, you definitely need to have patience, because it's a people business and you're dealing with people who do not have patience. You lose your sense of patience, you lose your sense of really great judgment."

Bob Lampert, director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, said the department maintains a minimum staffing level at the Rawlins prison that "exceeds almost any facility in the nation."

Lampert also says the long hours aren't exhausting officers. "It depends on the individual," he said. "Some individuals have a tolerance for long hours that never affects their performance."

The Rawlins prison is authorized to have 322 employees in security positions but as of early April it had 116 vacancies — more than 36% of authorized positions — department spokeswoman Melinda Brazzale said. Of those vacancies, she said 107 were in correctional officer positions.USA today

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