IMPRISONED BY PROFIT
Breaking Coloradoâ€™s dependency on for-profit prisons
Colorado WINS | February 2013
IMPRISONED BY PROFIT
Breaking Coloradoâ€™s dependency on for-profit prisons By Timothy R. Markham, Esq. | Colorado WINS
Colorado Workers for Innovations and New Solutions (WINS) is a union representing more than 31,000 state employees who work to ensure Coloradoâ€™s quality of life in communities across the state.
IMPRISONED BY PROFIT: Breaking Colorado’s dependency on for-profit prisons 1
Colorado’s Declining Prison Population and the For-Profit Prison Industry Colorado began utilizing for-profit prisons 20 years ago because of a pressing need to house a then rapidly growing inmate population. As that immediate need has now passed and the state has a surplus of beds in public facilities it is time for policymakers to step back and evaluate Colorado’s continued utilization of for-profit prisons. Is the state actually realizing any cost-savings when they contract with for-profit prisons? Should tax dollars continue to support an industry that profits off of human incarceration? Our conclusion is that now that the incarceration crisis of 20 years ago has receded and the state has a surplus of bed space in public facilities public beds should take precedence over for-profit beds. This conclusion is based on the bed space currently available in public facilities, the illusory cost-savings of for-profit prisons and the inherent conflicts of intermingling criminal justice public policy and corporate profit seeking. We propose three budget and statutory changes which would begin to move Colorado away from its dependency on the for-profit prison industry. Colorado’s prison population is declining and the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) is taking state beds offline and closing state-run facilities. At the same time, state appropriations for-profit prisons rose in the 2012/2013 fiscal year by nearly $4 million1 and CCA was guaranteed a minimum offender population. For the 2013/2014 fiscal year the department is now requesting an additional $1.3 million2 increase in payments to our for-profit prison providers. The for-profit prison model is marketed to policymakers and taxpayers as a way to save the state money, but the daily rate that is paid covers only the most basic costs associated with inmates. Health care, emergency response and oversight of the facilities are still obligations of the CDOC. Given the profit seeking nature of for-profits their incentive is to reduce costs and find savings anywhere they can, often putting public, worker and inmate safety at risk. If major problems arise, as they did in the Crowley County riot in 2004 when for-profit staff were ordered to abandon their posts and stand down until CDOC arrived3, CCA knows that the CDOC and Colorado taxpayers will be there to clean up their mess. Policymakers should also be mindful of the distortions to our criminal justice policies that are inherent in our reliance on the for-profit prison industry. The insertion of the profit motive into our criminal justice system perverts policy decisions along the entire spectrum of criminal justice policy, from sentencing through the parole process. These are policy decisions that should be based on the interests of justice and the broader society, not corporate profits. This report is not a comprehensive programmatic and budgetary comparison of Colorado’s for-profit prisons and state-run facilities. Rather it is a look at the for-profit prison industry and the state’s current bed utilization in light of our declining prison population. We believe it gives policymakers and taxpayers a clear overview of the issues and points towards opportunity for a new direction. Now is the time for Colorado to begin transitioning away from for-profit prisons and prioritizing state beds. Colorado began utilizing for-profit prisons at a time when the state lacked capacity to keep up with rising inmate populations. As Colorado’s prison population has declined, the pressures upon
Colorado began utilizing for-profit prisons at a time when the state lacked capacity to keep up with rising inmate populations. As Colorado’s prison population has declined the pressures upon the state system have been relieved.
1. SB11-209: $60,405,258 total funding, HB12-1335: $64,027,488 total funding 2. FY 2013/2014 State Budget Briefing, Department of Corrections 3. CDOC After Action Report, “Inmate Riot: Crowley County Correctional Facility July 20, 2004,” October 1, 20-4
2 IMPRISONED BY PROFIT: Breaking Colorado’s dependency on for-profit prisons
the state system have been relieved, there is no longer a shortage of state beds, and sentencing and incarceration rates have been on a steady decline. Recent cuts to the CDOC have fallen disproportionately on state-run facilities. Now that we have underutilized capacity in state facilities we should begin using that capacity. Where the for-profit prison industry sees a threat to profitability in our declining prison population, policymakers should see opportunity. We are operating under a new reality in terms of prison population and state capacity and we should re-align our funding priorities to reflect this new reality. The table is set for policymakers to begin transitioning offenders currently housed in for-profit facilities back into state facilities.
PROFITING FROM INCARCERATION For-profit prisons are a multi-billion dollar industry and the two largest for-profit prison corporations (Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group) had more than $2.9 billion in revenue in 20104. Industry profits have grown exponentially since 1984, when the first for-profit prison in the United States opened. However, the industry faces a potential threat to profitability as our prison populations and incarceration rates decline nationally. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for has responded to this threat in a myriad of ways. In Colorado they sought and were granted a bed guarantee for the 2012/13 fiscal year. CCA has also sent a form solicitation letter to 48 governors and chief correctional executives across the nation and set aside $250 million for the outright purchase of state-run correctional facilities from the states5. The industry’s interests are the same as any for-profit industry or corporation – maximum profits for shareholders. For the for-profit prison industry maximum profits require maximum levels of incarceration, irrespective of the public good. CCA flatly asserted in their 2010 Annual Securities and Exchange Commission Report CCA that, The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some nonviolent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior. Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitoring who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reduction in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities. There, in plain view, is a clear statement of the for-profit prison industry’s financial interests. Any changes to laws which result in fewer people in prison will hurt the profitability of CCA. In contrast to governments’ obligation to balance issues like justice, public safety, community health and inmate rehabilitation, the for-profit prison industry has no such burdens. Their ultimate concern is over how to maximize levels of incarceration to boost their corporate balance sheets. Policymakers who are entrusted to work for the public good and appropriate public dollars should be wary of any criminal justice policies advocated for by the for-profit prison industry, their lobbyists, and their allies such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The industry’s interests are not the public’s interests.
4. Corrections Corporation of America, 2010 Annual Report, 2011; The GEO Group, 2010 Annual Report 5. January 13, 2012 letter from CCA CCO Harley G. Lappin to Fl. Secretary of Corrections Kenneth Tucker
IMPRISONED BY PROFIT: Breaking Colorado’s dependency on for-profit prisons 3
FOR-PROFIT PRISONS IN COLORADO Colorado has utilized for-profit prisons for 20 years and presently there are 4 for-profit prisons in the state which house Colorado offenders. Those facilities are run by two companies, CCA and the Community Education Centers (CEC). The Bent County Correctional Facility, Crowley County Correctional Facility and Kit Carson Correctional facility are all operated by CCA. CEC operates the Cheyenne Mountain Reentry Center (CMRC) which serves a different mission than the CCA facilities. CMRC is a pre-parole prison focused on transitioning inmates back into the community and reducing recidivism.
HOW ARE FOR-PROFIT PRISONS FUNDED IN COLORADO? Colorado has two for-profit prison providers, CCA and CEC. Both providers are paid on a per-bed/per-day basis, of which approximately 96%6 comes from the state’s General Fund, which means that every Coloradan, through their income and sales taxes, is providing a direct subsidy to the for-profit prison industry. Appropriations for the per-bed/per-day rate from the 2008/2009 fiscal year through the current fiscal year have totaled $386,553,0656. That number accounts for approximately 12% of all general fund dollars received by the CDOC in that time.
Both providers are paid on a per-bed/per-day basis, of which approximately 96% comes from the state’s General Fund, which means that every Coloradan, through income and sales taxes, is providing a direct subsidy to the for-profit prison industry
Of the two for-profit prison operators in Colorado CCA is the largest. CCA houses approximately 86% of the state’s current for-profit prison population7. At the current state per-bed/per-day rate of $52.691 current funding equates to 3,380 beds in CCA facilities. CEC has 776 total beds with a current population of 554 inmates. This accounts for just about 14% of the state’s current for-profit prison population7.
WHO CAN BE HOUSED IN A FOR-PROFIT PRISON? For-profit prisons have a limited pool of inmates who can be housed in their facilities. Per the terms of the CDOC contract the following types of prisoners may be housed in a for-profit facility: • CDOC offenders classified as Medium, Minimum Restricted, or Minimum Custody, based on the CDOC classification document. These are offenders categorized as Level III and below. • CDOC offenders who do not present a high potential for escape or violence, • CDOC offenders with medical needs of 1-4 on a scale of 5, mental health needs of 1-4 on a scale of 5, developmental disabilities on a scale of 1-3, some qualifying disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. • Only male offenders may be housed in a for-profit facility These restrictions skew the for-profit inmate population towards healthier and less dangerous inmates than the CDOC population as a whole. This makes direct cost comparisons between the for-profit population and the CDOC population difficult, skewing the data in the favor of the for-profit industry. 6. HB08-1375, SB09-259, HB10-1376, SB11-209, HB12-1355 7. CDOC, monthly population and capacity report, January 31, 2013
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WHAT ARE THE FOR-PROFIT FACILITIES AND WHAT IS THEIR CAPACITY? Currently DOC contracts with three counties, Bent, Crowley, and Kit Carson, who in turn subcontract with CCA. In total, the three CCA facilities have a combined capacity of 4,715 beds7; currently 3,3557 beds are occupied, which amounts to 99.3% of the 3,380 beds currently funded. • Bent County has a capacity of 1,4667 beds with a current bed count of 1,4137. • Crowley has a capacity of 1,7207 beds and a current bed count of 1,1977. • Kit Carson has a capacity of 1,5627 beds and a current bed count of 7457.
CCA BY THE NUMBERS 66
number of facilities owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison company based on number of facilities
number of beds available in CCA facilities across 20 states and the District of Columbia
total revenue recorded by CCA in 2011
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA CCA is the country’s largest for-profit prison company and by far the larger of the two for-profit prison companies operating in Colorado. CCA is a huge company with enormous resources that acts to influence public policy on the state and national level. CCA has been named in innumerable lawsuits across the nation concerning issues of medical treatment, sexual misconduct by staff, excessive force, inmate riots, inmate escapes and inmate deaths. In Colorado there have been numerous lawsuits concerning the 2004 riot at CCA’s Crowley County Correctional facility. There remain serious questions concerning possible issues of medical negligence that may have led to the 2010 death of Terrell Griswold in the Bent County CCA-operated facility8.
lobbying expenditures in the last 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
total political contributions from years 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics
executive compensation for CEO Damon T. Hininger in 2011
recorded number of inmate-on-inmate assaults at CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center between Sept. 2007 and Sept. 2008
recorded number of inmate-on-inmate assaults at the state-run Idaho State Correctional Institution in the same time frame (both prisons at the time held about 1,500 inmates) Source: Lee, Suevon, “By the Numbers: The U.S.’s Growing For-Profit Detention Industry,” ProPublica, June 20, 2012
8. Prendergast, Alan, “Mother Questions Her Sons ‘Natural Death’ in CCA Prison,” The Westword, January 6, 2012
IMPRISONED BY PROFIT: Breaking Colorado’s dependency on for-profit prisons 5
WHICH FACILITIES HAVE CLOSED OR LOST BEDS? Colorado has lost a total of 1,457 state-run beds in the past two years. The closure of Colorado State Penitentiary II was a result of an extraordinary set of issues but Colorado continues to pay over $9 million in general funds every year on the CSP II bonds2. The closing of Ft. Lyon, which housed inmates with unique medical needs, was triggered by budget constraints9. Even if one were to assume that all 100 beds at Sterling were for Level IV and V inmate (and thus those inmates would be ineligible for transfer to for-profit prisons) that still leaves approximately 317 beds which have been taken offline since 2009 which could have been filed by inmates housed in for-profit prisons. These closures and lost beds amount to a total of 494.3 FTEs abolished within the CDOC for annualized budgetsavings of $34,216,57910. In 2010 the for-profit High Plains Correctional Facility was decommissioned resulting in 272 beds being taken offline for a budget savings of $5.4 million10. That amount represents the only budget savings through decommissioning or taking beds offline that the department has realized with for-profit facilities since 2009.
Statewide bed closures 1500
Ft. Lyons Correctional Facility loss of 500 Level III beds. Colorado State Penitentiary II loss of 316 Level V beds.
BEDS TAKEN OFFLINE SINCE 2009 100 Level III beds at Trinidad* 117 Level III beds at Buena Vista Correctional Facility*
Percentage of Savings
100 Level I beds at Buena Vista Boot Camp*
100 beds of an indeterminate level at Sterling Correctional Facility*
224 Level IV beds at Colorado Women’s Correctional Facility.
STATE BED CLOSURES SINCE 2009
*houses for-profit prison eligible inmates
93% State Beds: $34.2M For-profit beds: $5.4M
Source CDOC budget hearing, January 4, 2013, written testimony of CDOC Executive Director Tom Clements
To look at it another way, the CDOC has realized annual budget savings of $39,616,579 since 2009 through closing of facilities or taking beds offline. Of that total budget savings 93% has come from state-run facilities and just 7% from forprofit prisons. CDOC budget cuts have had a disproportionate impact on state-run facilities. The for-profit prisons have so far remained relatively unscathed from the downward pressure on the CDOC’s budget despite the fact that inmate population pressures have decreased and actual budget savings from utilizing for-profit prisons remain illusory.
9. Mitchell, Kirk, “Governor May Close Ft. Lyon Prison for Aging Inmates,” The Denver Post, February 15, 2011. 10. CDOC budget hearing, January 4, 2013, written testimony of CDOC Executive Director Tom Clements
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THE RATIONALE FOR FOR-PROFIT PRISON BEDS HAS RECEDED In his written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) on January 5, 2012 CDOC Executive Director Tom Clements stated, Due to sustained offender population growth and shortages in state beds, the Department of Corrections has contracted with private prisons to house and supervise offenders since 1993. To the first point, Colorado is no longer experiencing sustained inmate population growth. In fact the opposite has occurred â€“ sustained inmate population decreases. There are approximately 2500 fewer inmates in the CDOC now than in 2010, which places our offender population at 2005 levels, and both our sentencing and incarceration rates are also at 2005 levels2. The Colorado prison population peaked in 2009 and has been in steady decline ever since2.
Colorado no longer has a shortage of state beds. The CDOC currently has a surplus of close to 350 open beds at state facilities and even that number could grow, if recently closed beds were brought back on line.
To the second point, Colorado no longer has a shortage of state beds. As demonstrated below the CDOC currently has a surplus of close to 350 open beds at state facilities and even that number could grow, if recently closed beds were brought back on line.
HOW MANY BEDS ARE CURRENTLY OPEN IN LEVEL III AND BELOW AT STATE-RUN FACILITIES? According to the most recent population statistics from the CDOC, as of January 31, 2013 there are 347 open beds in CDOC prisons which house Level III offenders and below. In addition there are 96 open beds at Sterling Correctional Facility which houses Level I-V offenders; the data on open beds does not provide detail as to which level beds are open at Sterling.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH BRINGING STATE BEDS BACK ON-LINE? In his Jan. 4, 2013 written testimony to the JBC Director Clements stated that, These three living units (100 beds at Trinidad Correctional Facility, 100 beds at Sterling Correctional Facility, and 117 beds at Buena Vista Correctional Facility) were closed in such a way so that they could be reopened if the utilization study shows they should be used. The staffing and operating costs reduced for the closures would need to be restored to operate these living units.
SAVINGS FROM BED CLOSURES Trinidad (100 beds) Sterling (100 beds) Buena Vista (117 beds) Total
$583,670 $619,110 $913,799 $2,116,579
Source CDOC budget hearing, January 4, 2013, written testimony of CDOC Executive Director Tom Clements
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THE BED GUARANTEE In 2012, after CCA threatened to close one of their Colorado facilities due to declining offender population, the JBC and the Governor’s office negotiated with CCA to house at least 3,300 Colorado offenders in their facilities for the 2012/13 fiscal year. However, since the bed guarantee was agreed to, the Kit Carson Correctional Facility has added 250 offenders from Idaho11 and, according to Idaho corrections documents published online, that state has plans to bring an additional 200 offenders to the Kit Carson Correctional Facility in 201312. The bed guarantee was granted in spite of the fact that the Intergovernmental Contract between CDOC and the counties (who then subcontract to CCA) states in Section 2.1 that, “The State does not guarantee any minimum number of Offenders will be assigned to Contractor’s Facility.” It should be noted that this guarantee does not appear in a formal contract and that the bed guarantee was only for the 2012/13 fiscal year. While the politics of the moment may have warranted such a guarantee, the state should carefully consider whether such guarantees should be given in the future. Given the influx of Idaho offenders to CCA’s Kit Carson Correctional Facility the impetus for last fiscal year’s bed guarantee has passed. With 3,2947 beds full CCA is currently operating at 99.9% of the bed guarantee. Colorado policy makers must then ask why Colorado taxpayers are guaranteeing a minimum subsidy to a for-profit company while state beds sit empty.
STATE COSTS State taxpayers are not realizing the cost savings that the for-profit prisons would like lawmakers to believe. The state is paying for unused beds in state facilities and must provide medical care for for-profit prison inmates, emergency response at for-profit prisons and oversight of the for-profit facilities. While the state pays for-profit prisons on a per-bed/per-day inmate rate, our CDOC-run facilities are funded on a per-facility basis. Colorado taxpayers are paying for approximately 350 vacant beds in CDOC facilities and then turning around and paying a per-day/per-bed basis to CCA to house those 350 offenders. In FY13/14 the Governor’s office has requested a $15.4 million total increase in the CDOC budget, a 2.1% increase from FY12/132. In addition to the costs of empty beds the CDOC is also contractually obligated to provide all medical care for inmates housed in for-profit prisons except for routine medical care. Without an audit of the CDOC’s medical costs it is impossible to know precisely how much money CDOC is paying for medical care of inmates in
STATE’S MEDICAL CARE OBLIGATIONS TO FOR-PROFIT PRISONS • Specialty medical care • Emergency medical care • Outpatient surgical care • All medically necessary non-emergency and inpatient health care • All costs related to manageable chronic conditions (i.e.: HIV, Hepatitis C, congestive heart failure) such as lab tests, studies, routine observation, pharmaceuticals, consultations, and any transportation costs • Specialty diagnostics, procedures, ordered as part of a diagnostic workup
Source Intergovernmental contracts with CCA, Exhibit D
11. Idaho Department of Corrections press release, “Idaho Moves 120 More Inmates to Colorado,” September 21, 2012 12. Idaho Department of Corrections, http://www.idoc.idaho.gov/content/story/out_of_state_updates
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for-profit prisons. In the HB12-1335 Long Bill CDOC received $77,017,517 for their medical services subprogram. At the start of that fiscal year the CDOC reported 18,020 total inmates (state and for-profit facilities) and 3,993 inmates in for-profit prisons. At a per-inmate cost of $4,274 for healthcare in FY12/13 the CDOC was contractually obligated to cover approximately $17.1 million in medical costs for inmates in for-profit prisons. This is in addition to the $64 million in per-day/per-bed payments that CDOC made to the for-profit prisons. The contract with the CCA facilities outlines shared duties for emergency preparedness between the for-profits and neighboring CDOC facilities; in reality though it is the CDOC which has the ultimate responsibility of providing real emergency response.
Of those 47 CCA staff on duty at the time the riot began only 33 were security officers, a ratio of 1 officer for every 35 inmates. Even in CDOC’s lowest custody level facilities the ratio is 1 officer for every 6.9 inmates.
In July 2004 more than 100 CDOC officers from five staterun facilities, including CDOC’s special operations team and emergency response team, were forced to respond to the CCAoperated Crowley County Correctional Facility13 when a riot broke out amongst the 1,144 inmates and the CCA staff of 47 fled14. It should be noted that of those 47 CCA staff on duty at the time the riot began only 333 were security officers, a ratio of 1 officer for every 35 inmates. Even in CDOC’s lowest custody level facilities the ratio is 1 officer for every 6.9 inmates15.
Additionally, the state has the ultimate responsibility of oversight and monitoring of all for-profit prisons through CDOC’s Private Prisons Monitoring Unit (PPMU). The PPMU budget in FY12/13 is approximately $1.3 million with 13.3 FTE16.
When one factors in the indirect and overhead costs of medical care, emergency response and oversight costs it is far from conclusive that the state is saving any money at all through for-profit prison utilization.
When one factors in the indirect and overheads costs of medical care, emergency response and oversight costs it is far from conclusive that the state is saving any money at all through forprofit prison utilization. This is in-keeping with national studies dating back to the mid-1990s which have called into question the cost effectiveness arguments of for-profit prison proponents. In 2005 the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contracted with a research firm to do a rigorous study of the cost effectiveness of a for-profit prison contract in Taft, California. The study reviewed the first 5 years of a 10-year contract between BOP and the GEO group and ultimately concluded that,
…analysis indicates that the observed cost of the [Taft] contract was virtually identical to the estimated cost of in-house operation by government employees—based on practices observed at similar BOP facilities17. The 2005 study echoed the findings of a congressionally mandated 1998 Department of Justice study. The 1998 study found evidence of cost-savings to be mixed “with the more detailed studies indicating the smallest cost savings from privatization.”18 A United States Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs commissioned study from 2001 titled Emerging Issues on Privatized Corrections reached a similar conclusion.
13. “Riot at Colorado Prison Injures 13 Inmates,” The Associated Press, July 21, 2004. 14. Prendergast, Alan. “Crowley Prison Riot: New Details of Unheeded Warnings Emerge in Epic Lawsuit,” The Westword, December 21, 2011. 15. CDOC budget hearing, January 5, 2012, written testimony of CDOC Executive Director Tom Clements 16. HB12-1335 17. Nelson, Julianne, Competition in Corrections: Comparing Public and Private Sector Operations, The CNA Corporation, December 2005 18. Nelson, Julianne, “Comparing Public and Private Prison Costs,” Appendix 1 of Private Prisons in the United States: An Assessment of Current Practice, Abt Associates, 1998
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COUNTER ARGUMENTS Some will say that we don’t have the capacity to move the entire for-profit population back into state facilities. No one contests the veracity of that statement: it would be impossible for the state to immediately move all of our for-profit population back into state-run facilities. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start the process. We have to begin winding down our reliance on for-profit prisons at some point and the myriad of factors described above led us to conclude that the time is now. Another common argument is that the CDOC needs operational flexibility and policymakers should not tie their hands through legislation. In the past the CDOC has stated that they need approximately 100 beds open at any given time to handle new inmates. While certainly the CDOC needs some operational flexibility, at this point there is a growing number of empty beds in the state (699 total by the last CDOC population report) and trends in criminal justice in Colorado and across the nation indicate that our declining prison population trend will continue. We do not believe that moving offenders out of for-profit prisons will hamper the CDOC’s needs for operational flexibility. Finally there are concerns over the economic impact a reduction in the for-profit population would have on local communities. Let’s be clear, as stated above the state does not have the bed space to move inmates from for-profits to state facilities en masse. If Colorado policymakers choose to fill every eligible state bed with an inmate from CCA facilities CCA’s population will still be 90% of what it is today. Also, CCA has demonstrated an ability to fill bed space in Colorado with inmates from other states, including Alaska and Idaho. It is far from clear whether a slight reduction in the population of Colorado inmates in forprofit facilities would necessitate the closure of any for-profit facility or even require a significant reduction in staff.
Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility (Photo: Robert Lindgren/Colorado WINS)
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A correctional officer at the CCA operated Kit Carson Correctional Facility starting wages are $12.26 an hour or $25,500.80 a year if he works 40 hours per week and 52 weeks a year.
Staff turnover in the for-profit facilities is high, ranging from 5% at the Bent County Correctional Facility up to 19% at the Kit Carson Correctional Facility9. This is no doubt in large part a result of the challenging work and low pay of for-profit correctional officers. For correctional officer at the CCA operated Kit Carson Correctional Facility starting wages are $12.26 an hour or $25,500.80 a year9 if he works 40 hours per week and 52 weeks a year. A correctional officer at a state facility like Limon Correctional facility (just 80 miles from Kit Carson) makes $18.88 an hour which amounts to $39,270.40 a year9.
Inputting this wage data into the Colorado Department of Human Services PEAK website we find that CCA officers in Kit Carson County making $25,500.80 a year with a family of 4 will most likely qualify for public services19, including food assistance and Medicaid for their children. So not only does a starting CCA officer make just 65% of what a corresponding CDOC officer makes but a CCA officer will likely have to rely on public assistance to meet the basic needs of his family; whereas the CDOC officer is paid a fair wage and has access to the state’s retirement and healthcare plans. These are not just economic issues for families; these disparities have a real impact on public safety. In the CDOC report on the 2004 Crowley county riot it is noted that the high turnover at for-profit facilities undermines their ability to develop professional standards of inmate management, which results in a lack of preparedness for emergency response. The CDOC population is declining, that is an immutable fact. With a declining population there will be beds taken offline. Policymakers must ask themselves, should Colorado taxpayers continue to subsidize near-poverty level jobs at for-profit prisons or should our tax dollars support good jobs and public safety? None of these counter arguments against prioritizing state beds are persuasive when viewed in light of our declining prison population, unrealized cost savings from for-profit utilization and the moral deficiencies of the for-profit prison industry.
PRIORITIZING STATE BEDS Given all of the above the time is right for Colorado to move beyond our two decade dependency on for-profit prisons. We recommend that the following legislative steps can be taken right now to prioritize state beds over for-profit prisons.
When there is an open bed, of a suitable custody level, in a state facility then the CDOC should fill that bed with an inmate who is being housed in a for-profit facility.
• When there is an open bed, of a suitable custody level, in a state facility then the CDOC should fill that bed with an inmate who is being housed in a for-profit facility. The policy of “state beds first” could be achieved through a very simple statutory change, striking just six words in Colorado Revised Statutes §17-1-104.9(1); specifically by striking the word “permanently” in the first sentence and the words “of a higher custody designation” from the last sentence.
• In order to effectuate this policy change, the JBC should reduce the for-profit prison appropriation by 347 beds, a savings of $6,673,451.95. Furthermore, the JBC should strike the for-profit prison provider increase of $1,337,765 that the CDOC requested for the 2013/2014 fiscal year; combined these budget changes would bring a total savings to the CDOC budget of $8,011,216.95.
• As discussed previously, the CDOC estimates total savings of $2,116,579 by taking beds offline at Trinidad, Sterling and Buena Vista. Accounting for that increase in spending to bring those beds back on-line, total net savings to the CDOC budget from these policy and budget changes would be $5,894,637.95. Colorado is at a moment of decision concerning its Corrections public policies. Rarely are we afforded an opportunity to reshape public policy in such a substantive manner. With our declining prison population there is an opening to break Colorado’s dependency on the for-profit prison industry and we urge policymakers to seize this moment. □ 19. U.S. Census Bureau places the poverty threshold for a family of 4 with 2 children at $23,283
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Because of rising inmate populations Colorado has depended on the for-profit prison industry for two decades. Now that the inmate populati...
Published on Feb 25, 2013
Because of rising inmate populations Colorado has depended on the for-profit prison industry for two decades. Now that the inmate populati...