Declining Inmate Population Leads To Prison Closure

By: KKTV Email
By: KKTV Email

Part of the Centennial Correctional Facility will close by 2013. The 316 high security bed expansion will shut down because Colorado has less crime and fewer inmates - downward trends that are expected to continue.

The state Department of Corrections announced Monday that it will close Colorado State Penitentiary II in Canon City, also called the South Tower of Centennial Correctional Facility.

Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Corrections, Tom Clements, said in a news conference Tuesday that two main reasons they are closing the $160 million prison is because of a state-wide declining inmate population and less use of solitary confinement.

When officials planned for the facility in 2003, and built it in 2010, prison population was constantly increasing. Over the last three years, however, Colorado has seen a drop in over 1,600 inmates. From a peak of 23,220 inmates in July, of 2009, Colorado's total inmate population fell to 21,562 last month.

And now the shrinking inmate population trend is picking up speed, dropping around 131 offenders a month; 1,048 in the last eight months alone.

This is thanks in part to a downward trend in our state’s crime rates. Charts display how there were 4,400 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2005; in 2010, only 3,000 crimes. It’s a slow downward trend officials have seen over the last decade, and one they project will continue.

Numbers also show there is now less use for solitary confinement, which CSP II was designed for. There are now less offenders in solitary confinement or “administrative segregation” decreasing from 1,468 offenders in September 2011 to 1,094 in January 2012.

Male inmate population is also on the decline. Officials project it will drop from 20,391 inmates to 18,020 by June 2015.

Total inmate population is forecasted to decline by an additional 925 offenders, 905 of which are male.

Tom Clements says there were several factors to consider.

“A decrease in the crime rate, a decrease in new court commitments to prison, and a decrease in parole violator returns to prison,” said Clements.

And because the facility was designed solely for solitary confinement, there is no recreation area or treatment center. Something D.O.C. officials need in order to help train offenders how to transition back into every life. It’s a new D.O.C. policy, in order to keep communities safe.

“When you think about who you want to live in your neighborhood and who you want to be your neighbor, you certainly want someone who has not gone from solitary confinement to being in a neighborhood,” said Roxane White, Governor Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff.

47 percent of all inmates from solitary confinement were set free to the streets without any transition training. Now that number is only 16 percent.

White also tells 11 News the Governor’s office plans on developing a long-term study on the current declining trends in order to ensure facility efficiency across the state.

The 213 employees who currently work at Colorado State Penitentiary II will be reassigned positions in Fremont County. There are currently 60 vacant positions, and with a turnaround rate between 8 and 9 percent, officials say there will be enough positions open by the deadline of February 2013.

A panel headed by White and other DOC leaders fielded questions from prison workers Tuesday night. About 40 people filed in to the Town Hall event. Some told 11 News they have doubts about the job re-assignment plan.

"I don't think the problems are going to get solved," said corrections officer Nick Montanez. "I think that it's not going to be as clear as they think it is now. It's going to get cloudy when more problems arise between now and then."

Officials say the closure will save $4.5 million next year. It will save $13.5 million each year after that.

The section of the facility that houses the 316 high-security beds will be closed February 2013. Part of the facility will remain open for use of CCF-North. Officials say in the future they could lease the property and beds.

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  • by To Remain Anon Location: Canon City on Mar 22, 2012 at 04:34 PM
    My main question is why shut it down??? Ever cell has a computer, the building is up to date. Territorial is falling apart and needs a overhaul that will cost 3 million . Not to mention CWCF closed a couple years ago is open as a international training academy and the state is still renting from the Abbey???? And they want a new HeadQuarters at 10 million in Springs??
  • by Huh??? on Mar 21, 2012 at 11:17 PM
    Declining crime rate? Where? As some have said, all we've heard is "overcrowding!" So why weren't some of the prisoners transferred to this ultra expensive prison instead of turning them loose? Oh wait! MONEY, money, money! Barrels of it wasted on this prison!
  • by Anon on Mar 21, 2012 at 10:11 AM
    Sorry kktv, wrong again... The gov. Hickenlooper is setting them free. Parole board members are being forced to release mo inmates.... So this liberal station tries to make it sound like it is a good thing. But nope.... Looper wants them living next door to us.
  • by RE Location: Colorado on Mar 21, 2012 at 09:06 AM
    ARE THEY SERIOUS...REALLY?? This is a joke, right? All we have heard for the past couple of years is that they have to reduce prison sentences due to what part of this are we suppose to truly believe? We must ask ourselves and our judicial leaders if this is truly in the best interest of State. Actually, we should be demanding a full investigation of the operations of each of these facilities in our state. None of this makes any sense.
  • by ColoradoMom Location: Colorado Springs on Mar 21, 2012 at 08:51 AM
    For goodness sakes; our judicial system lets criminals out of prison early becuase of "over-crowding" and NOW they are reassigning employees and transferring inmates to other facilities? Has our states gone cracy or what? None of this makes any sense at all. Colorado needs to re-think what they are doing. With all the sex offenders that have been recently let out early; they could have remained or been transferred there. What's next?
  • by Anonymous on Mar 21, 2012 at 08:49 AM
    But won't we need prisons for civil unrest and for when the "terrorist" suicide bombers come to America?
  • by Stupid Article on Mar 21, 2012 at 07:07 AM
    Of course the prison population has declined! Do they really think we are that stupid? When you release a large percentage of convicted felons due to "overcrowding", the end result is...a decline in the prison population.
  • by megcol Location: colorado springs on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:41 PM
    Seriously? how many states are complaining about overcrowded jails/prisons? too many! transfer some of the prisoners from the overcrowded prisons, that way we keep jobs and get money from the states using our facilities to house their inmates.
    • reply
      by ilka on Mar 21, 2012 at 04:36 AM in reply to megcol
      According to Gov Hick's spokeswoman this is a national trend of declining inmates (Gov was apparently too busy welcoming Peyton Manning to Denver) Again, this is not a decline in crime as they have stated, but an increase in alternative sentencing. i.e. Alcohol classes for DUI's (even repeat offenders) Sex offenses either not being prosecuted at all or being probated (esp Pueblo County) Gang activity will continue to increase as these guys are put back on the streets as well. When Colo Springs has had record numbers of murders, how many of us are willing to buy that crime is down? Simply put, this administration believes in saving money at any cost, including public safety. Colorado has run some of the safest most efficient prisons for many years, for both staff and inmates. Yes, money can be saved, but how far is too far?
  • by ilka Location: canon on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:36 PM
    People need to question this "declining crime rate" and ask to see raw numbers not numbers that have been scewed and interpreted for them. Wouldn't we all feel safer if crime was declining? We have put so many guys on parole- including untreated sex offenders that the DOC is saving money while shifting the burden of maintaing these guys to the smaller communities- who are now investigating the crimes they commit. Please remember that this facility was built to hold those that "don't play well with others" and simply moving them will not change their behavior. someone will get hurt- pray it is not staff or your family member when they get early release in the name of saving money.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 21, 2012 at 06:14 AM in reply to ilka
      In the past, whenever the state has 'scewed', we, the tax payers have been 'screwed.'
    • reply
      by ColoradoMom on Mar 21, 2012 at 08:57 AM in reply to ilka
      I'm with you. This year alone, Colorado's for child abuse and deaths are frightening. Sex offenders are slapped on the wrist and are let out to attack innocent people and children. Habitual DUI offenders are not held accountable for their actions. Courts give them work release instead of full time jail sentences and I wonder how well their are actually monitored by their assigned Probation Officer. Obviously, not too well, or they would not be repeat offenders. Repeat offenders have not regard for the law and what better place to put these people then in a prison so they are truly monitored and supervised.
  • by John on Mar 20, 2012 at 08:00 PM
    How can they say a drop in crime haven't they been watching the news sounds like someone playing with the facts. Also close a prison that less then 2 years old makes no sence we will still be paying for it for another 18 yrs something funny going on. Why not close the one down town Old Max could be a boom in tourist traffic for the community makes more sencse up keep there has to be high
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 21, 2012 at 05:40 AM in reply to John
      Why not close all the prisons, then reassign them to us, the victims of 'reduced crime' for a safe haven? The state, at great expense, could house and feed us while keeping us locked in away from burglary, assault, murder, etc. We would have more religious freedom, far more privileges than we've ever had 'out here.' Our rights would be closely monitored, with lawyers available in case we needed to sue someone.
      • reply
        by vietsubvet on Mar 21, 2012 at 06:13 AM in reply to
        This is a brilliant idea. Never thought about this being a reason for building prisons, for us to hide in away from the thugs out here. I think I'm going to reserve my room now. Good comment @ Anonymous!!
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