By TRACY HARMON | firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 12:00 am
CANON CITY — State officials shared the good news and bad news Tuesday as they talked about why they've decided to close the state's newest prison in February.
The good news: Crime is decreasing, inmate numbers are decreasing and the number of inmates who get out and then come back for parole violations is decreasing.
The bad news: The $162 million prison, dubbed Colorado State Penitentiary II, won't even be paid for until 2021 and it can't replace older prisons because it doesn't have the basic necessities like program and recreational space.
Luckily, jobs won't be lost. The DOC already has 60 vacancies in the remaining Canon City area prisons so by February, there will be enough jobs to transfer the 213 employees to new positions.
Nick Montanez was among about 32 DOC employees to attend a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at the Corrections Training Academy in Canon City. He accused corrections executives of using "smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand — where is the cost savings coming in?"
"We are trying to do this in a way that is responsible with the economic health of Fremont County in mind. Instead of new hires, we will hold vacancies open until we move staff out of CSPII," said Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements.
"The shrinking offender population has really created an opportunity to close the prison," Clements said. "There have been significant declines beginning in 2009."
Just in the last eight months, the inmate population has dropped by 1,048 prisoners and CSPII, or Centennial South as it has been referred to, houses just 316 inmates. The trend is expected to continue and there will be an estimated 905 fewer male inmates in the next 16 months, Clements explained.
A declining crime rate, coupled with fewer paroled inmates returning to prison is credited for the declining prison population.
"This is great news for all of us. In addition, there has been a decrease in prison commitments from the court system," Clements said.
Another plus is that inmates are getting out and staying out.
"We are doing a much better job of working with inmates when we release them," said Roxane White, chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper. "Unfortunately we have to close a prison."
Clements said he is confident the DOC can relocate the highest-security inmates. He said the state will still have 1,284 administrative segregation beds and 1,094 ad seg inmates.
"A big part of our mission is to prepare them to be productive members of society. A total of 97 percent will get released," Clements 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.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012