CANON CITY - Because of budgetary concerns, Colorado State Penitentiary II will not open next July as initially planned, and at least one legislator thinks the prison should be sold.
Construction of the $162 million administrative-maximum-security prison at the East Canon Prison Complex is 80 percent complete and, so far, under budget, said Katherine Sanguinetti, Department of Corrections spokeswoman. The problem is finding the funds to staff it.
The initial plan was to open it in July 2010, but "it will not open in July or during the next fiscal year," due to budget concerns, said Sanguinetti.
Rep. Glenn Vaad, R-Weld County, will run a bill in the upcoming legislative session that proposes to sell the prison, perhaps to a private prison company. That suggestion has been met with a lukewarm response from corrections and elected officials.
"We will let the legislative process take its course," Sanguinetti said. There long has been a need for additional administrative-maximum-security beds as the state's only such lock up - Colorado State Penitentiary - has filled every one of its 756 beds, and the male inmate population historically continues to grow. The new top security prison was approved by the legislature and then Gov. Bill Owens in 2003 at a cost of $102 million, but a lawsuit delayed the construction, driving up the price.
The construction of the prison was funded by certificates of participation, but the state cannot afford to pay the nearly 500 workers it will take to staff the prison, which will house 967 high-risk classification inmates.
"There are operational issues we will have to deal with (until the empty prison building opens) - mainly physical plant and routine maintenance issues," Sanguinetti said.
Although the prison may not be able to open right away, and probably won't have a lot of buyers lining up to plunk down that kind of cash if the legislature does decide to sell it, the DOC usually finds a way to make use of its empty buildings.
Through Colorado Correctional Industries, the Colorado Women's Prison in Canon City, which closed in June, is seeing new use.
"We are moving some offices into Colorado Women's and Correctional Industries is using it for training classes for some Mexican corrections officials. They are training and learning from us and staying in a dorm at the prison and they also are getting breakfast, dinner and a box lunch there," Sanguinetti said. "This department is not wasteful."
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.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009