Critics say Colorado’s private prisons are driven by shareholder profits, says the Rocky Mountain News. The result is incidents such as a 2004 riot at a private lockup in Crowley County, Co., witnesses told a House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday. State corrections officials had to come to the rescue of 33 private prison officers who lost control of 1,112 inmates. The state fined Corrections Corporation of America $126,000 for short-staffing two facilities.
An official of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which is crusading nationally against private prisons, cited a U.S. Department of Justice report that private prisons have a 50 percent higher violence rate than their public counterparts. A vice president of CCA, the nation’s largest private prison operator, said of the Crowley riot, “frankly, we hadn’t done enough homework.” The firm estimated that it has saved Colorado $492 million of prison construction during the past decade by providing nearly 4,000 in-state and 480 out-of-state private prison beds. Critics cited CCA’s shipping Colorado prisoners hundreds of miles to Oklahoma. They say the prisoners can’t receive family support or maintain community ties critical to successfully re-entering society.