DENVER — A bill that calls for one Colorado prison to close by Nov. 1 gained preliminary approval in the House on Friday.
Under HB1421, Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Ari Zavaras would choose which prison to shutter. Eleven prisons meet the criteria outlined in the bill — eight of them in Southern Colorado. A DOC spokeswoman said even if a prison is decommissioned by the bill, no jobs will be lost.
Originally, the bill sought to redirect a portion of funds saved by closing a prison to anti-recidivism programs at private prisons in the state. However, it was amended in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday and on the floor Friday to instead devote funds to staffing levels at state-run prisons and existing programs for inmate treatment and preparation for release. The committee passed the bill on a 6-5 vote.
After the amendments, none of the savings would be earmarked for private prisons, and inmates from whichever prison would close would be transferred to state prisons rather than private ones, as long as bed space is available.
Provisions also were added to address the possibility that DOC can't assess and designate a prison for closure by the Nov. 1 deadline.
Fiscal analysis of the bill used Fort Lyon Correctional Facility as an example and showed that the state would save $7 million in the fiscal year 2010-11, and $10 million in the fiscal year 2011-12 if that prison closed.
One of the bill's sponsors, House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, said just because Fort Lyon — located 90 miles east of Pueblo — was used as an example, it shouldn't be assumed that it is the site that will be selected.
"Fort Lyon was selected for fiscal analysis as a low-ball estimate, a conservative representation of the savings," Weissmann said. "You can't rule out Fort Lyon or any number of the facilities that meet the criteria of this bill, for that matter. That would be for the Department of Corrections to decide."
And that process hasn't begun, according to DOC spokeswoman Monica Crocker.
"We do not have a priority list or a clear-cut facility that meets the criteria" for closure, she said.
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.
Saturday, May 01, 2010