Several officials from various state departments will be on hand to discuss an upcoming Prison Utilization Study Report at a public meeting to be held Tuesday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. in the Pioneer Room of Trinidad State Junior College’s Sullivan Center.
The Trinidad meeting is part of a regional tour by representatives of several state agencies to discuss the possible implications of the report, which will be released June 30. The tour will also include meetings June 4 in Ordway and Las Animas. The purpose of the meetings is to provide information about why the state authorized the study and to gather information from local officials and citizens about the economic importance of prisons in rural Colorado.
Representatives from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the governor’s office, the Department of Corrections and the Colorado Office of Planning and Budgeting are expected to attend the Trinidad meeting.
The Trinidad Correctional Facility is about eight miles east of town, and currently employs about 150 people, about half of them living in Las Animas County. It opened in 2001, but had one wing shut down in 2012, with the loss of several jobs.
In 2012 the State Office of Planning and Budgeting hired CNA, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit consulting and research organization, to study Colorado’s prison facilities and its correctional needs.
The state correctional system already had more than 2,100 empty beds at the end of 2012 and many experts predict that number could jump to as many as 3,600 by the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year. While those numbers are significant, even more shocking is the fact that the state has 7,500 fewer inmates than it once projected to have in 2013, according to a published report.
Several rural Colorado communities, Trinidad among them, are heavily dependent on state prisons to provide badly needed jobs and generate other forms of economic activity. Possible reductions in prison staffing, or even prison closures, could have serious implications on the economies of rural areas.
The meeting was scheduled on very short notice, according to County Administrator Leeann Fabec, who released the news to the media in a Friday phone call. The meeting is scheduled for the same time as the next regular meeting of the Trinidad City Council, so some local officials may have change their schedules if they want to attend the Prison Review Utilization Report meeting.
CNA officials visited the Trinidad facility in February as part of a survey of all the state’s prison facilities. An earlier public information meeting was held in Trinidad after the February visit.