Three days ago, Colorado shut down a brand-new prison it didn’t need, the Denver Post reports. Unless the state government finds someone else who can use it, Colorado taxpayers can expect to spend $208 million for an empty building. Colorado State Penitentiary II, also known as Centennial South, consists of 948 solitary-confinement cells. It has no dining room, no gym, no rooms where a group of prisoners could take classes or go to therapy or get vocational training. It’s row after identical row of empty cells.
From the beginning, critics objected that Colorado was putting people in solitary confinement at a rate that dwarfed the national average. The prison was built even though most legislators opposed it. Sponsors lumped the prison with a new University of Colorado medical campus and gained bipartisan support for two projects financed without a vote of the people. It finally opened in 2010, over renewed objections that Colorado didn’t need it. The corrections department won the fight to open it with a misleading claim that most states held more prisoners in what the department calls “administrative segregation.” Now it’s empty.