DENVER - The Colorado Department of Corrections on Tuesday outlined a massive five-year, $800 million plan to add state prisons, including expanding the Trinidad prison and building a mega-facility somewhere else in the state.
DOC Ex- ecutive Director Ari Zavaras said that despite aggressive efforts to reduce recidivism, an increase in parolees and any changes in sentencing requirements the Legislature might approve, Colorado still will need more prison beds as soon as it can get them. Zavaras, who was DOC director when former Gov. Bill Owens put the kibosh on state prison construction in 2000 in favor of contracting with private companies, said he warned lawmakers then not to allow the private/state prison ratio to surpass 20 percent.
As of this year, it's reached 22 percent, and without any new state beds coming online, will hit 40 percent by 2012, he said.
"I think they're very effective in helping us save capital dollars and we don't have to ask for that money from you, but when it comes to operating them there really isn't that much savings when you factor in everything," Zavaras told the Capital Development Committee.
"Currently, almost 90 percent of the inmates we have in private prisons are with one particular company (Corrections Corporation of America), and that gets to be a little heavy in one direction," Zavaras said.