A new Colorado prison is breaking down hardened inmates, preparing them for the real world with dorm rooms, inspirational messages, and courtesy titles, the Rocky Mountain News reports. The Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center is a medium-security prison. Inside, the most intensive re-entry facility in state history operates as a specialized way station for inmates now garbed in green scrubs but about to become someone’s next door neighbor. An intense schedule of classes, softer architecture, and more civilized language aim to change inmates’ lives, reduce recidivism, and make streets safer. “We want them to think about treatment and get their brain going in a way they haven’t thought about before,” said warden Robert Hood, who formerly oversaw the federal Supermax facility in Florence.
The tan, brick and concrete re-entry facility, located in an industrial area, is run by Community Education Centers, a private New Jersey company. The company commissioned a study of New Jersey prisoners which found that after one year, 34.5 percent of those who had completed a CEC program had been rearrested. The figure for inmates who had not gone through the program was 47 percent. Some of Cheyenne Mountain’s best spokesmen are the inmates. “The fact that they call you a resident rather than an inmate makes you start to think you’re a person,” said Anthony LaBate, serving time for theft and heroin possession. He was one of eight randomly selected inmates interviewed recently. Colorado’s prison population in the past 10 years has doubled to more than 21,000. This year, the state will move about 8,000 inmates back into the community. Recidivism has been running at about 50 percent within three years. The state spends about $30,000 a year to incarcerate a prisoner.