STEVEN K. PAULSON, Associated Press Writer
DENVER (AP) ― State Rep. Glenn Vaad said he was stunned when he learned that the Colorado Department of Corrections planned to leave a new, $208 million maximum-security prison empty because of the state's budget crisis.
"That's unconscionable in my mind. We invested $208 million of the taxpayers' money and because of the economic downturn, we can't afford to open it," he said. "Let's sell it."
Vaad, R-Mead, said the state would have to change state law to allow a private prison to buy or lease the prison because state law bars private companies from housing maximum security prisoners. If lawmakers reject that option, Vaad said it should be sold off and run privately as a medium security prison allowed under current law.
Although the state is currently in a budget crisis and opening the prison has been put on hold, Sen. Moe Keller, who heads the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee, state attorney general John Suthers and corrections director Ari Zavaras have all come out against Vaad's plan, saying it's too dangerous.
"I would not approve of allowing the private sector to operate maximum security prisons in the state of Colorado," said Suthers, a Republican. "If you look around the country, placing maximum security detention into private hands has not gone well."
Keller, a Democrat from Wheat Ridge, said the state has already had serious problems with medium security private prisons and allowing the private operation of a maximum security prison is out of the question.
"I'm vehemently opposed to selling a maximum security prison to a private company," Keller said.
However, Keller said she might be open to selling the building to a private company if some other use can be found.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
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.
Monday, October 12, 2009