On one side are piles of rock for more prison construction. On the other side is a possible Colorado budget shortfall of $600 million-plus for the rest of fiscal year 2008-’09.
Hmm, $600 million. Where have we read that number before?
Oh, yes. The final budget of Gov. Bill Owens’ Department of Corrections. In the July 1, 2006 fiscal year, the Corrections budget was $647 million. That was a 48 percent increase over the $437 million budget Owens proposed for th e Corrections Department on July 1, 1999, as researched by a Joint Budget Committee staffer.
Prison construction doesn’t begin when a new governor takes an oath of office. Construction and use blends over past, present and future administrations. When Owens left office, Corrections had about 22 state prisons to manage and six private corrections facilities to oversee. The state can save millions of dollars by delaying opening a new prison this fiscal year or in
Gov. Roy Romer handed Owens a prison population of 14,312. Owens averaged a prisoner-population increase of 1,000 for each year of his tenure, with the population reaching 22,481 by Dec. 31, 2006 — a 57
During the last year of the Romer administration, Colorado’s prison population ranked 25th in the nation.
Under Owens, the population continued its steady increase, and Colorado stayed at No. 25 during his first term. I wrote columns defending the fact that Colorado was just “going with the flow.”
But the increases during Owens’ second term left Gov. Bill Ritter a state that was 23rd in prison population. Even though Ritter’s prison population increase in 2007 was minimal (360) it was enough to move Colorado up to 22nd highest nationally in state prison population.