Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Colorado looking to close more prisons

Experts in Colorado point to a mix of reasons for the dramtice decline in prison population—including fewer prosecutions and changes in the way the prison system is run.

The state's felony crime rate dropped by a third from 2002 to 2011, according to DOC Director Tom Clements. Possible reasons for that include reductions in punishment for marijuana-related crimes (marijuana use is now legal in Colorado), successes of youth and gang-intervention programs, and an aging population that has resulted in fewer young people getting in trouble.

In December, there were 2,109 empty beds in prisons across Colorado. Most were in private prisons, and the state is no longer paying for the space.

Budget and criminal-justice statisticians predict the number of unoccupied beds will rise to between 2,600 and 3,600 by June 2014.

Eliminating that much capacity could shut down two to 10 prisons, depending on the size of the facilities.

Colorado is already at 7,500 fewer inmates than it once expected in 2013 and has closed three state prisons.

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