Because of declining prison populations, the closure of some prisons in the state of Colorado looms on the horizon. The Delta County Correctional Center (DCC), along with 20 other Colorado Department of Corrections facilities, has been the subject of a prison utilization study that "identifies the most appropriate and cost-effective uses of the available public and private inmate beds."
The results of that study will be presented to the Joint Budget Committee and to the Colorado Department of Corrections at the end of June.
In the meantime, state officials are conducting meetings across Colorado to discuss the state's plan for appropriately utilizing public and private prisons and assisting communities which may be adversely impacted by potential prison closures in the future.
The meeting in Delta will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Delta County Courthouse.
City and county officials have actively supported the Delta Correctional Center since the prison utilization study was launched. They point out DCC significantly contributes to the local economy in a variety of ways, from providing employment to supporting local vendors to supplying inmate crews for public projects.
Work crews from the Delta Correctional Center provide an average of 150,00 hours of service valued at $954,252 per year. According to the county commissioners, this partnership directly benefits 35 local, state and federal entities.
Because the findings of the prison utilization study have not yet been released to the Joint Budget Committee or the DOC, Steve Green, warden of the Delta facility, says it's likely Thursday's meeting will provide more questions than answers.
But he stated with confidence, "I'm not even slightly worried about closure of the Delta prison."
Warden Green went on to explain that Colorado is not the first state to experience a declining prison population. But because it's uncertain how long that trend will continue, other states have realized it makes more sense to partially close a facility than to shut a prison completely down. "Since that's what has occurred nationwide, I'm guessing that is the path Colorado will take," Green said.
Green confirmed the shrinking prison population has impacted Delta, where 177 of the facility's 480 beds are vacant. There have been no staffing changes, however, and Green said vacancies are being filled. The facility opened in 1964 and employs 138 people.
A change in classification systems has resulted in fewer Level I, or minimum security prisoners, in the system, Green added.
At a town hall meeting last week, Rep. Jared Wright explained some felonies are now considered misdemeanors. Rep. Wright is the Judiciary Committee's liaison to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
"The reason the Legislature went that direction is because of the jail overcrowding," Rep. Wright said. "Now we have the opposite. We have a lot of prisons getting to the point where they can close because so many beds are being cleared up.
"It's a balancing act. We want bad people paying their dues to society. We want our correction system to work; we want to put them back in society as productive people. But we don't also want to be wasting money where it can be better spent.
"I don't know what they're going to say about this specific facility," Rep. Wright continued. "Even if the facility is a benefit to the local economy, it's still government dollars that are creating that situation."
"I'm not an advocate of keeping the prison open just to get cheap labor, but being they're here, they need to work for their keep," Gerald Roberts commented at the town hall meeting.blog comments powered by Disqus