DENVER — The state prison system wants to address inmates' mental health problems and the dangers of mingling prisoners of varied risk classifications through the opening of Colorado State Penitentiary II.
Gov. Bill Ritter's proposed budget for the fiscal year 2010-11, which begins July 1, calls for $10 million to open a portion of CSP II in Canon City. The money devoted to the project stood out as one of the few areas where the governor proposed spending, rather than cuts, in a budget with an estimated $1.3 billion deficit.
Ritter's plan is subject to the Legislature's approval. It proposes to open 336 administrative-segregation beds — the state's highest security classification — and to employee 229 workers at CSP II. Inmates would be transferred from Limon, Buena Vista and the Arkansas Valley correctional facilities to CSP II beginning Sept. 1.
The primary reason Ritter supports CSP II opening is the same one that DOC officials have touted: safety.
Ari Zavaras, DOC executive director, points to inmates being housed in mixed classifications as a key factor in three inmate-on-inmate homicides during the past six months and a rise in assaults between inmates and on staff.
Ad-seg inmates presently are housed with lower-risk inmates, creating an environment of danger and chaos, Zavaras told the JBC.
Larry Reid is the warden of two Pueblo prisons — La Vista Correctional Facility and San Carlos Correctional Facility, which has a high concentration of mentally ill inmates. Reid said moving ad-seg inmates out of the general population allows "the offenders who are not problematic to enjoy the programs we have for them."
As of last week, 142 ad-seg inmates were in need of placement away from inmates of lower classification. Zavaras told the JBC 126 of those would be moved from the original Colorado State Penitentiary to CSP II.
Those 126 beds that would become available would in turn be filled with inmates suffering from diagnosed mental health conditions, because the original CSP offers treatment programs that prepare them to re-enter the general population or to be released from prison.
During the past 18 months DOC has directed 200 inmates to those programs. Now, 30 have been reintroduced to the general prison population, and 40 more have been released.
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.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010