The first part of this year was the time for a new discussion around how we looked at corrections in Colorado. The governor made reducing recidivism a part of his platform. His Colorado Promise. He got a lot of buy in from his new head of corrections Ari Zavaras. Gov. Ritter's 2008 budget request was also geared towards reducing recidivism. It was not about building new prisons.
Our prison growth is currently the lowest it has been in years. Last year we were told that we were going to grow by at least 100 people a month. Because of changes in the way things are done on a policy level we have that down to 30 a month and the women's prison population growth is at -3.
So when Mr. Zavaras came out last week and said that we were still growing at an inflated rate we were a little surprised. Simply because it isn't true. It's pretty simple to see that all we have to do is make a few more minor changes and we can stop 1 person a day from being revoked. Find other alternatives. Let people out a few weeks early. Create opportunities and solutions and we would have zero growth in the prison population in Colorado.
DENVER - With nearly $600 million in requests for state building projects, the members of the Legislature's Capital Development Committee that decides who gets what already know one thing:
They don't have enough money to pay for even one-sixth of them.
From a $50,000 request to complete work on the Antonito car shop for the Cumbers & Toltec Scenic Railroad, to a $60 million plea to double the size of San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo, the six-member CDC is hard-pressed to fund a few dozen crucial building needs much less 64 other projects that came before them last week.
Finding new ways to pay for construction has become an annual rite for CDC members, who have turned to special bonding packages, fees and even some highway money.
Still, it's never enough.Next year, however, projections show it only has about $125 million available for nearly 150 projects that ultimately are expected to come before the Legislature, and those figures don't include continued funding over the next couple of years for such things as prison expansion or building maintenance.
As of last week, requests for state-funding projects mounted to $597.1 million, including $238.6 million for continuation projects and $272.2 million for new ones. Though it's taken some time, some college institutions and state agencies that come hat-in-hand to the CDC each year are starting to get more creative in asking for money, offering to pay for part of it through other means, said Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, another CDC member.
"There's a greater understanding on the part of institutions of the limitations this committee has financially, and a real willingness to find alternative funding solutions," Witwer said. "The word is out that the state has limited resources, and institutions in some cases are stepping up to the plate to get some of these worthy projects funded."
The governor, in his proposed budget, included a couple of capital construction projects for Southern Colorado, including fixing up space at Pueblo Community College and renovating a veterans nursing home in Florence.
Beyond those two, other requested projects for the region are expected to remain so low on everyone's priority list as to not qualify for funding.
Lumped into that are proposals to expand area prisons, including completing Trinidad Correctional Facility into the "mega-facility" that was initially planned there.
All told, the Colorado Department of Corrections is asking for nearly $500 million over the next two to three years to add 3,225 beds to four state prisons, including San Carlos, Trinidad and the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley.
That request caught some CDC members off guard, in part because all of them are near the bottom of Ritter's priority list.
"All the projections show that we're going to need more prison beds," Witwer said. "So on the one hand they're telling us that, but on the other, the prioritization from the same administration doesn't show any path to prison beds. It's definitely a conversation that we're
$12.1 million for a phased expansion of the 484-bed Trinidad Correctional Facility to 2,541 beds, with an ultimate cost of $337 million at build-out.
$5.4 million for a phased expansion of the 384-bed Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley to 1,007 beds, with an ultimate cost of $60 million.