OLNEY SPRINGS — California intends to bring up to 3,256 inmates to private prisons in Colorado and Minnesota in 2012, private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America announced.
Colorado's share will go to CCA's private Crowley County prison in Olney Springs, and in turn could lead to many of Crowley's existing 1,600 state inmates going to other prisons, the company said.
Whether the influx will lead to a reopening of CCA's closed Huerfano County prison in Walsenburg is unknown. The state itself also has unused bed space at Colorado State Penitentiary II.
The Walsenburg prison closed in April with 170 workers laid off.
In its announcement, CCA confirmed only that it is in discussions with state prison executives about options for housing the Colorado inmates currently at Crowley.
Steven Owen, director of public affairs for CCA, said Friday that it is premature for company executives to comment other than to confirm the Crowley County pact and the ongoing state talks.
Still, he sounded a positive note about the announcement. "We look forward to working with our government partners on this positive development," Owen said.
The company's official announcement also offered an optimistic tone:
"The company feels confident that this anticipated contract will be a positive, meaningful step toward the total utilization of CCA's correctional facilities in Colorado."
CCA operates four prisons in the state.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it intends to award a new contract to CCA to manage offenders at Crowley County and a Minnesota prison.
The contract is not expected to bring inmates until 2012.
In Walsenburg, CCA announced in January plans to close the Huerfano County prison in spring after losing a major contract from Arizona. The prison was the county's second largest employer after Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center.
Katherine Sanguinetti, Department of Corrections public information officer, said that CCA notified her department of the contract two days ago.
"We have not had time to implement a plan but we have over a year to do it," Sanguinetti said.
Sanguinetti said there has not been any discussions as to whether the transfer of Colorado inmates out of Crowley County Correctional Facility could mean the reopening of the Huerfano County prison.
"We haven't talked about it just because there hasn't been time to discuss it yet. We have until 2012 to get a good solid plan in place," she said.
Crowley County Commissioner Tobe Allumbaugh said he is very excited about the proposal for his county's private prison.
"We understand that there may be additional staffing at the facility — and the more jobs we can get in Crowley County, the better," Allumbaugh said.
Allumbaugh said the inmate classification at the facility may change from medium security to minimum.
"That would improve the safety conditions of the facility. I am certain that it is going to be quite a job getting Colorado inmates out and California inmates in, but the facility has been there a while and we are very confident that CCA has the training and ability to make this a very smooth transition from one to the other," Allumbaugh said.
Ron Thompson, vice president of CCA Operations in Colorado, said in a press release that CCA employees in Colorado have consistently demonstrated a high commitment to quality correctional practices every day, and the new contract for the Crowley County prison is a testament to their skills."CCA has a long-standing partnership with the state of Colorado, and we are eager to continue to meet the state's correctional needs with the same, continued high level of commitment," Thompson said