The Denver Post
LAS ANIMAS — What if the most dire predictions prove true? What if closing the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility prompts 10 percent of Bent County's workforce to move, triggering an economic tsunami in the Arkansas River Valley?
Cindy Miller, a corrections officer at the prison facing $1,000-a-month gasoline bills for her and her husband to transfer to new jobs at a different prison, ponders the questions for a minute, then reluctantly answers.
"Go on welfare, I guess."
Moving people from jobs to handouts does not seem like a rational way to balance the budget, and it is not what the Department of Corrections and Gov. John Hickenlooper had in mind when they chose to save a projected $6 million a year by closing the prison.
But by picking Fort Lyon, here in the southeastern corner of the state, rather than further cutting costs in a more-populated area better able to handle the job losses, that may be the result.
"If we were to lose 200 jobs from the Denver area, or even Cañon City area, they could absorb those losses much better than we can," said Sgt. Chris Newman, a 12-year DOC employee whose 12-minute commute is becoming an hour each way as he transfers to the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Ordway.
The loss of roughly 200 good jobs here equates to erasing as much as 25 percent of the take-home pay in a county where about 35 percent of the 6,500 residents already live in poverty.
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, January 04, 2012
The Denver Post