Could another prison, parole reform help solve Colorado’s prison capacity crisis?

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DENVER -- Lawmakers met Friday at the Colorado Capitol to do discuss a growing crisis in the state: a shortage of prison beds.

According to officials, at all public prisons in Colorado, there are only 127 open beds total, with the crisis expected to get worse as more enter the population than leave.

Department of Corrections officials renewed their call to reopen Centennial South, a $200 million prison facility which has been closed for years.

The proposal, which has the approval of Gov. Jared Polis, would be used as a “backstop” in case the prison capacity crisis worsens.

Polis’ administration has vowed not to grow the prison population with the new facility, but merely take the bed count from private prisons currently serving Colorado.

However, some lawmakers have their doubts, instead believing criminal justice reform may be a more appropriate way to handle the issue.

“We have a capacity crisis,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver).

Gonzales has proposed a bill that would make parole easier for those currently in prison.

“We have low-risk offenders who are being denied for things like housing,” Gonzales said.

According to a Colorado Independent Report, more than 8,000 inmates in Colorado jails are currently eligible for parole.

A recent report from the state indicated 70 percent of inmates who apply for parole are denied.

Other criminal justice reform efforts at the Capitol include a movement to reduce recidivism rates by better preparing inmates to re-renter society.

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