The Colorado Department of Corrections is asking for $11 million to lease a private prison while it attempts to reopen a closed prison in Cañon City, the Denver Post reports. . The department’s supplementary budget request shows it wants $10.9 million to open a 250-bed private prison because of unexpected increase in the number of people being sent to prison. Critics say the state needs to look for options rather than pour money into more prison beds. They are especially concerned about the department’s plan to put general-population prisoners in Centennial Correctional Facility-South, a prison designed for solitary confinement.
The department would use the private prison while a $636,000 recreation yard is under construction at Centennial South. Federal law requires general-population prisons to provide recreational options for inmates, and the project would meet that criteria. State law forbids the corrections department from housing prisoners at Centennial South, so it would need the legislature to change that. Christie Donner of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition said Colorado needs to study what is driving a rising inmate population and devise alternatives to sending more and more people to prison. “The historical approach of going back to get more money from the taxpayers to open another facility should not be the only option on the table,” she said. Centennial South is widely considered a boondoggle. The prison, constructed after the state borrowed $208 million, opened in 2010 and was closed two years later. Taxpayers are still paying the construction bill.