DENVER — A Colorado Springs lawmaker praised Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposal to close a prison during a gathering of his constituents at the State Capitol on Wednesday.
“I commend the governor for standing up and standing strong in this legislative session and saying we’re going to look at actually closing a prison down in the state of Colorado,” Republican Rep. Mark Waller told a contingent from the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Hickenlooper was in Las Animas on Wednesday to tour Fort Lyon Correctional Facility, which he targeted for closure as part of $570 million in budget balancing cuts.
House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, spoke to the same group that Waller addressed. He said at a time when Colorado needs jobs, lawmakers and citizens should not vilify public employees or turn their noses up at government jobs.
Pace, clearly outnumbered by an audience of a more conservative persuasion based on its reactions, reminded the visitors from Colorado Springs that their community and its economy rely heavily on government paychecks.
“If government were practiced like so many in Colorado Springs talk, they would not have the jobs that they have,” Pace said in an interview following his speech. “Look at the government-owned facilities there: the Department of Corrections, Fort Carson, Schriever and Peterson (Air Force bases), the Air Force Academy and the military contractors.”
Waller, a former Pueblo prosecutor, said it makes sense to close a prison because 500 fewer people are in Colorado prisons today than there were two years ago.
“With 500 fewer people in prisons, how do you actually exercise the savings? There’s only one way to do it. That’s to get rid of prison beds. You have to be willing to get rid of a prison,” he said.
Waller said he was frustrated last year that a bipartisan bill that called for the closure of a Colorado prison died.
“That’s been an absolute travesty for us. And it is my hope absolutely that we can close a prison down because we don’t need it,” Waller said.
Pace said people view cutting government jobs differently when they stand to be lost in their backyards.
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.
Thursday, March 03, 2011