CO Town Hopes Private Prison Will Save Its Economy


Will a new prison keep the Colorado farming town of Ault, population 1,200, from withering away? “We’re out here now watching Ault just slowly die,” Charles Burman, whose family-owned store has anchored the main street for a century, told the Denver Post. A 1,500-bed, $100 million prison is in the works south of town. GEO Group Inc. – a Florida-based prison and detention- center operator – was awarded a bid from the state prison system to build a prison near Ault in two years. Police Chief Tracey McCoy pressed GEO to bring the prison to Ault, seeing potential in a facility that will hire 350 employees and pay the town up to $300,000 in fees. Prison employees also could spend about $1 million a year in local restaurants and stores, providing a boost for a town with a $400,000 operating budget, McCoy said. “This will help build our infrastructure, bring our water and sewer systems up to par,” he said. “It will sustain some revenue growth here.”

Rural areas as a whole haven’t realized the economic benefits pitched by prison supporters, said Marc Mauer of the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project. The group studied towns that brought in prisons in upstate New York over 25 years and found the prisons made little difference in local employment or per-capita income. “Someone working at a gas station today will not necessarily get the prison job tomorrow,” Mauer said. “And those that work there will maybe stop for a little gasoline on their way home so there is little trickle-down effect for the local economy.” McCoy remains optimistic. The new prison would house “well-behaved inmates who are getting near their parole dates,” he said. “If they cause any problems, they will go to the maximum-security facility.”


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