Colorado Continues Reliance on Private Facilities

DENVER – Colorado’s private prison industry appears to be thriving, with state officials predicting that the number of inmates in private facilities will more than double by 2009. State officials, however, want those private facilities to make important improvements because a recent audit found numerous flaws at the prisons.

According to the audit, private prisons need to improve medical care and staffing rations. Additionally, private facilities were found to skimp on food portions, which last summer resulted in a riot at the Crowley Correctional Facility.

The state's Department of Corrections, which says that the private prisons have addressed key problems, is overhauling its prison monitoring staff and creating new penalties for substandard supervision. It is the first time Colorado will levy financial penalties for underperforming private prison operators.

Colorado pays slightly more than $50 per day per inmate to house 3,000 inmates at one of five private facilities. Within the next four year, the state expects to house 7,000 inmates at private facilities.

By contrast, the state spends $77 dollars per day per inmate to house inmates in state-run facilities. Additionally, if the state were to abandon its use of private facilities, it would have to spend $225 million to construct new facilities. Currently, the state has no new prison projects in the pipeline, but two new private facilities are in the design stage or already under construction.

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