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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Maketa Makes His Case For Expansion

The toilets alone will cost more than $1,500 apiece.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, whose office runs the county jail, said he winces at the estimated $75.5 million cost of adding 864 beds for inmates. The expansion is the largest single cost in a possible 1 percent sales tax increase that is likely to be on the November ballot to raise funding for law enforcement and health agencies.

Half the new beds would be for maximum-security inmates, and that's where the $1,500 toilets come in. The price doesn't mean they'll be gold-plated with heated seats, Maketa said.

The toilets would be made of stainless steel and have wider pipes to prevent intentional plugging that can flood a jail ward. They'd have built-in timers to prevent rapid-fire flushes, among other features. A porcelain toilet isn't an option, Maketa said. Inmates could break a cheaper toilet and use the shards to hurt themselves or others.

"Everything in a building can be used as a weapon, and they have to be designed to not be used as a weapon," he said.

There are other requirements, too. The jail must have a minimum amount of living space, sleeping space and air space for each inmate. Showers automatically mix the water temperature to prevent burns. Windows made of unbreakable glass. Protective covers for fire sprinkler heads. Steel doors.

It adds up to the largest cost for an El Paso County government building and would amount to 12.5 percent of the new sales tax revenues. The jail expansion is No. 1 on a list of nine building projects tied to the tax totaling an estimated $153 million. A citizens group pushing for the tax increase estimates the first year's income for building projects at $8.6 million. Maketa said that's optimistic, but even if it's accurate it means the county would have to save for nearly nine years to pay for the jail expansion without going into debt even if there's no inflation on construction materials and labor.

Maketa has been lobbying for a new jail for years, reporting regularly that the inmate population is near or at capacity.

Not everyone is convinced, though, that the county has done everything it can before considering going to the voters for a costly solution to a problem that won't go away even if the jail is expanded.

"This is a challenge that a lot of communities are facing, but what people are finding is that building more jails just doesn't solve the problem," said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

A range of options can keep people out of jail, Donner said, including programs that help judges decide if suspects can be released without posting bail.

"That's where you get penny-wise and pound-foolish," Donner said. "We don't have a notion of a debtor's prison in this country, but the reality is if you can't afford to pay the bond, then you sit in jail until your case is resolved."

Maketa said he's taken several steps to keep the population manageable: the jail quit accepting inmates accused of misdemeanors in July 2006, and Maketa said he's working with federal officials to get illegal immigrants moved out of the jail quicker.

Colorado Springs Gazette


Anonymous said...

If the sheriff can identify illegal aliens, why can't our flooded school system, social services system, and employers identify them?

Anonymous said...

If the sheriff can identify illegal aliens, why can't our flooded school system, social services system, and employers identify them?

Anonymous said...

This sheriff is talking about adding beds with 1500 dollar toilets to accomodate NON-VIOLENT people??? Where is his brain?? There is no need to incarcerate non-violent persons. If they broke the law, issue them a ticket and let them go home to there familys. If they dont appear then go and arrest them and lock them up. Let that sheriff pay for the 75 million construction!!!
To go further, when dealing with non-violent inmates who are incarcerated by Feds, there are no fences with razor wire surrouding the facilitys but rather signs saying, Do not go past this point!!
Very few prisoners ever run away as they know when there caught they just get more time.

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