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February 24, 2009

More notable local news from the business pages of prison nation

Regular readers know my favorite modern political mantra: "It's the prison economy, stupid."  The latest opportunity to chant this mantra arises in connection with this local article from Colorado, headlined "State senator keeps Rifle prison open to protect local economy."  Here are snippets:

Dave Scherbarth, associate warden at Rifle Corrections Center, didn’t know what to think when he learned Friday that his facility would be spared from the state’s frenzied budget cuts.  The roughly 50 people who work under him were likewise at a loss.  They had, after all, spent the past month convinced they needed to find a new job because the prison was closing down, Scherbarth said.

Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, ... looked at the situation as a prime example of how the government can save jobs in tough economic times and not aggravate the problem. “We need to diversify our economy so that when these oil and gas resources dry up, or when the companies leave the area as they’re doing now, people still have a place to work,” White said.

Rifle Corrections provided that diversification for the town it’s named after, he added. “This was important to my district,” White said. “It’s a stable, diversified employment base that serves a need in the Piceance Basin, which kind of largely lives and dies on oil and gas.”

It was for those reasons he fought Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to close the facility and transfer its employees as part of a strategy to cut into the state’s deficit, White said....

About 300 community members from around the region attended a community forum about the prison’s closing, Scherbarth said. People started writing letters to the Legislature and, pretty soon, they started getting responses. “I’m glad I don’t have to sell my house now ... (and) I’m glad my staff doesn’t have to go into the job market right now,” Scherbarth said. “This showed that when the community bands together, things do happen.”

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February 24, 2009 at 12:30 PM | Permalink

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