The Denver Post
A proposal to privatize a prison being built in Canon City - that the state cannot afford to staff - has drawn mostly jeers from state policymakers.
Love it or hate it, it's part of a resurgence in the prison privatization trend as states wallow in budget shortfalls. The state of Arizona is moving to privatize its entire system to save money.
Trouble is, studies about the cost effectiveness of privatization are mixed.
It's understandable that some in Colorado want to sell the prison, but they must prove it would be a money saver and that the prison will be operated to state standards.
Make no mistake, those are tough benchmarks to meet.
The idea of selling Colorado State Penitentiary II comes from state Rep. Glenn Vaad, R-Mead. Recent published reports said Vaad would introduce a bill proposing the sale of the $208 million maximum security prison, which is under construction and will be finished in the spring.
However, the state won't immediately open the prison because it can't afford to pay the nearly 500 workers it would take to run the facility.
"That's unconscionable in my mind," Vaad said, according to an Associated Press report. "We invested $208 million of the taxpayers' money and because of the economic downturn, we can't afford to open it. Let's sell it."
Giving over operation of a high-security prison complex to a private corporation leaves some uneasy.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has opposed the plan, saying he opposes private-sector management of a maximum security prison.
"If you look around the country," Suthers said, according to the AP story, "placing maximum security detention into private hands has not gone well."
Given the difficulties the state has had with medium security prisons in private hands, it's tough to imagine ceding to private companies the task of incarcerating the state's worst criminals.
Furthermore, the new prison is in a secured area among six other state prisons. It would house 967 dangerous state inmates and would share kitchen and support facilities with a public prison. The layout would make the physical disentanglement of the new prison from the public facilities even more difficult.
And then there are financial difficulties. The prison was built with $41 million in state money, said state corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti, and the rest was financed with certificates of participation, a complex financing tool.
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.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Denver Post