Taxpayers on the hook for $208 million
Just recently, Colorado shut down a brand-new prison it didn't need, reported the Denver Post. Problem is the state just opened the prison in 2010.
Unless the state government finds someone else who can use it, Colorado taxpayers can expect to spend $208 million for an empty building.
Finding someone else may not be easy. 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, reported the Post.
From the beginning, critics of this project objected, correctly, that Colorado was putting people in solitary confinement at a rate that dwarfed the national average.
It was built even though most legislators opposed the prison in 2003, according to a key player. Another bit of legislative ingenuity overcame that problem. The 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.
Separately, neither project would have passed, according to Republican Norma Anderson, the Senate majority leader and bill sponsor in 2003, reported the Post.
The statisticians who predicted prison populations played a part. The Division of Criminal Justice, for one, foresaw numbers of Colorado prisoners going up and up. Instead the prison population declined along with the crime rate, while judges sentenced fewer people to prison. Today, Colorado holds about 7,500 fewer prisoners than forecast six years ago.
It finally opened in 2010, over renewed objections that Colorado didn't need it. The corrections department, in turn, won the fight to open it with a misleading claim that most states actually held more prisoners in what the department calls "administrative segregation."
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