GEO to close private Colorado Springs prison with 650 inmates


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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — GEO Corporation plans to close a private prison in Colorado Springs with 650 inmates, the Colorado Department of Corrections said Tuesday.

CDOC says GEO Corporation gave the department 60 days’ notice that the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center (CMRC) would be closing on March 7. All 650 inmates at the facility are males.

Nearly 200 people are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

In a statement, CDOC said it has been discussing the facility with GEO for the past several months. CDOC says there were concerns about GEO’s “inability to provide appropriate treatment, lack of offender programs, staffing level issues, and turn-over rate.”

“While the CDOC had hoped GEO Corporation would participate in a thoughtful and longer-term strategy for transitioning offenders out of the CMRC facility, they have ultimately decided on a more rapid closure,” CDOC said.

Dean Williams, the executive director of CDOC, said that while the department is disappointed in GEO’s decision to close CMRC, CDOC was preparing for the possibility of a rapid shut-down of the facility.

“The use of private prisons in our state does not just raise philosophical or ethical questions, but also creates serious operational concerns when a for-profit company can choose to close its doors and leave the department to navigate what to do with 650 offenders,” Williams said in a statement.

CDOC added that it has been in communication with Gov. Jared Polis and the Legislature about a possible closure of the Colorado Springs facility.

“As a result, part of the Governor’s budget proposal for this year was targeted at removing offenders from CMRC and re-distributing the current population to increase safety across our facilities,” CDOC said.

To accommodate the 650 inmates, CDOC has proposed reopening two towers at its Centennial South facility in Canon City. The prison was completed in 2010 but has been closed since 2012.

“While [Centennial South] was originally designed and built to house offenders in administrative segregation, the facility has undergone retrofitting that would allow it to house close-custody and other offenders with more extensive management needs,” CDOC said.

For the prisoners to be moved to Centennial South, the Legislature would have to approve funding.

GEO sent the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“The Cheyenne Mountain Re-entry Center (CMRC) was identified for closure in Governor Polis’ Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget proposal. Since that announcement, and related legislative hearings, we have experienced challenges in retaining and recruiting staff at CMRC. 

Given these circumstances, and in the interest of our staff and those entrusted to our care, we have informed the Department of Corrections (DOC) that we will conclude our services at CMRC in 60 days; effective March 7, 2020.  We will work with the DOC to develop a transition plan and prioritize the health, safety and well-being of CMRC staff and residents.    

The state has made its intentions clear; that it wants to manage this population within its own facilities, and we will work with them toward that end.“

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