Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

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 16, 2008

Private Prison Extortion Begins

We need to pass a law that doesn't allow the importation of prisoners from other states and continue to work on those issues that put Coloradoans in prison when there are other safer cheaper alternatives available.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A private prison company is threatening to stop housing additional Colorado inmates unless it receives more state funds, an act one state lawmaker called “extortion.”

Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, said Corrections Corporation of America has demanded a substantial increase in the daily rate the state pays private prisons to hold inmates.

“They said that if we don’t essentially do a 5 percent increase over each of the next five years, they will work at closing at least one of their prisons to Colorado prisoners and start bringing in out-of-state prisoners,” Buescher said.

Corrections Corporation of America prisons in Burlington, Las Animas, Olney Springs, Walsenburg and Sayre, Okla., house 4,048 Colorado inmates, according to Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.

Those prisoners account for more than 20 percent of the state’s more than 19,000 prison inmates, according to agency statistics.

Steve Owen, spokesman for the Tennessee-based company, said Corrections Corporation of America requested the rate increase to keep its Colorado prisons operating at cost.

“We’re trying to keep our operations in Colorado financially viable looking to the long term,” Owen said. “It’s been a very good partnership.”

Owen declined to comment on the company’s dealings with state lawmakers. He said Corrections Corporation of America is merely trying to negotiate a reimbursement rate in line with prison companies’ pre-recession funding levels.

Following Colorado’s 2002 and 2003 recession, the state dropped its per-inmate, per-day private prison reimbursement rate from a high of $54.66 in fiscal year 2001-2002 to $49.56 in fiscal year 2004-2005.

Since then, the reimbursement rate has grown incrementally to $52.69.

Ari Zavaras, director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, said he understands the Corrections Corporation of America’s financial situation, but its threat to start “winnowing” Colorado inmates out of its facilities in favor of more lucrative out-of-state prisoners is insidious.

“I do feel there is some level of extortion involved here,” White said.

Buescher, who heads the state’s Joint Budget Committee, said Corrections Corporation of America’s responsibility for such a high percentage of the state’s inmates gives it a troubling level of influence over the state.

“When you use private prisons, you become hostage to their setting the rate,” Buescher said. “And we always knew that this issue was out there.”

White said if Corrections Corporation of America moves ahead with its plans, the state could find itself scrambling to either cram more inmates into its already overstuffed 22 public prisons, send prisoners outside Colorado or build a new public prison.

“We need to find beds for our prisoners,” White said, “and if we lose all of the (Corrections Corporation of America) beds, we’re in trouble.”

According to a Joint Budget Committee staff report, Colorado will need 5,100 new prison beds over the next five years.

White said building thousands of new public prison beds, without private prisons to help bridge the bedding gap, could run a tab of nearly $1 billion.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, said another short-term solution could be to encourage more community-based sentences for nonviolent felons. Community corrections programs, he said, are more cost-effective than prisons.

Pommer suggested during a Tuesday hearing the state could condemn and take over one of Corrections Corporation of America’s facilities, but said it would not be preferable.

He said for the time being, Colorado will have to rely on private-prison beds.

“We should have never let this situation get to the way it is,” Pommer said.

Grand Junction Sentinel


Anonymous said...

i could show the colorado legislature how they could cut there prison population by 40 percent, get all there prisoners out of the, (prisons for profit) and close several of the state run prisons, cutting millions of dollars from your corrections budget.
Simply quit listening to your so called criminal justice experts, update your criminal statutes and penaltys, quit incarcerating non violent offenders, take control of the parole and probation officers who are presently micromanaging inmates. Stop the dept of corrections from there current extortion of credit from the inmates familys. A note to Governor Ritter, get rid of your appointment to head the dept of corrections, Ari Zavares. He is an old out dated cop who should stay retired.
You have a broken, outdated Department of justice and department of corrections full of corruption which is costing you millions and a lot more to come.

Anonymous said...

What Anonymous Said

Anonymous said...

What Anonymous and Anonymous said. To the clueless "experts" ... DUH!

Anonymous said...

It really is rather obvious isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #4. Yes, it is blatantly obvious. The "experts" are not clueless. They are playing the system for their own benefit. Quota, more "offenders" in and out of state ... fine living for THEM. There are a lot more Tim Masters in those $ell$. $$$$$$$$$$$$$

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1, thank you! Very well stated. Now that is "thinking outside of the cage!!!

Anonymous said...