Colorado has run out of prison space for its most dangerous inmates and will run out of room for any new prisoners later this year, says the Rocky Mountain News. “The inmate population is continuing to grow, and we don’t have a place to put them,” state legislative analyst Karl Spiecker said yesterday. The prison population is at 20,000 and projected to grow by up to 7,000 in the next five years. The state is violating the law by housing 70 of its highest-security prisoners in private prisons, Spiecker said. Private prisons have 25 percent fewer guards than state prisons. All four private prisons for men in the state are already full of Colorado inmates.
The state is “relying on private prisons that do not exist,” Spiecker said. The corrections department has put out a request to the private prison industry for 3,000 new beds in the next three years – but it can easily take two years to build a new private prison. The state plans to double-bunk 500 prisoners this year. Colorado brought 121 of its most dangerous prisoners home from Mississippi after they were involved in two riots in an under-staffed private facility there. One reason for the Colorado crowding is a habitual-offender law that triples the maximum sentence on a third felony. The same law provides for life sentences to habitual offenders who commit a violent crime.