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March 17, 2008

Colorado's struggle with prison overcrowding

Here are excertps from another (all-too-common) story of a state struggling to figure out what to do about its growing prison population:

Colorado will be more than 4,600 prison beds short by 2014 if it does not start immediately on a nearly $800 million proposal to build or expand five correctional facilities, Department of Corrections Executive Director Ari Zavaras says....

Projections show the state getting by with existing facilities for two years. The system will add 1,010 beds in two projects in 2009, providing a projected 125-bed surplus. But because officials project a 4.6 percent annual growth in prisoners, the system could be short 900 beds by 2011....

[Governor] Ritter wants the state to build beds to meet the projected need.  Said spokesman Evan Dreyer: "I would think that our need is immediate, so we do need to address today's prison-bed demand in an immediate fashion."

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, is more cautious, however. He said it would be preferable to save the $341 million needed to build a 2,500-bed facility and put it to health care reform or to higher education instead.  And Shaffer, like others, suggested the state's greatest ally in this could be a group with which it recently has been feuding: private prisons.

Roughly 22 percent of the state's inmates are contracted to be in private prisons, a figure that Zavaras predicts could rise to 40 percent in the next few years if the state does not build more beds.  But Corrections Corporation of America, which holds 90 percent of the state's private prisoners in its facilities, has requested at least a 4.25 percent increase in its per-day prisoner fees, while the state wants to give no more than 3 percent....

There also is the issue of sentencing reform, a concept pushed largely by Democrats as a way of reduce some nonviolent offenders' sentences and clear room in state facilities.  No recommendations have come forward on that front, however. The matter is urgent and should be addressed in the coming months, legislators say.

March 17, 2008 at 08:06 AM | Permalink


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i am a parolee. one of the solutions is to either abolish parole completely or 1 year parole . too much power in small minds...

Posted by: conrad czajkowski | Apr 28, 2008 9:55:53 PM

I am a parolee who has been recently released from prison. It is widely known that much of the overcrowding problem resides with recividism. The one and only proven technique to prevent recividism is education. With the removal of pell grants from prisoners, of which less than 5% of pell grant money was used by, prisoners are less and less likely to be educated since there is virtually no real education services provided by "the system." I believe wholeheartedly that if that money for education grants was freed up for inmates that we would see prisoners solving the problems and becoming a real contribution to society rather than a drain on public resources and funds.

Posted by: Bryan Coy | Feb 23, 2009 1:01:59 PM

I am a student and doing research on Prison over Crowding for a paper. I am starting to become very bothered by the Attitude towards crime. Why expect it to grow, and is it ethical that the private sector make money from reforming. I have known people that worked in private facilities and people that have been in private facilities and both agree that while the inmates are destitute and fairly hopeless, the people profiting off their hopelesness are and living quite well. I feel like there is more benefiet in not helping criminals and making sure they come back. I am in school to get my education degree, but this really has me questioning if I should go into adult education.

Posted by: KELLY | Oct 29, 2009 2:02:10 PM

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