At state Capitol, Department of Corrections discusses closing prisons, DAs speak out on sex offenders

Politics

DENVER — The Department of Corrections went before the General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee Wednesday. They discussed topics including the potential closing of private prisons and the possible release of some sex offenders.

During the three-hour presentation, officials discussed issues with the privately run Cheyenne Mountain prison near Colorado Springs and the desire by the state to close it and reopen a state-run facility in Canon City.

DOC officials told lawmakers the Cheyenne Mountain location has experienced severe staff shortages and issues with compliance in recent years. The cost to close Cheyenne and move inmates to other locations would cost the state around $10 million.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney’s Council attended the hearing over concerns with a proposal by some lawmakers to study releasing incarcerated sex offenders to community-based centers.

“The district attorneys in our state were alarmed,” attorney Amanda Gall said.

Gall says the idea of releasing sex offenders should be met with caution.

“We aren’t talking about public urination, we aren’t talking about streaking — those are not sex offenses in Colorado. To go to prison in Colorado, you have to commit felony sexual assault,” Gall said.

She added that if the goal is to save the state money, officials should seek savings elsewhere.

“Focus on a different population. Sex offenses are some of the most serious offenses that we face,” Gall said.

DOC officials during the hearing did not comment on the proposal, indicative the idea is in its infant stages.

The General Assembly will convene for its annual session next month.

In recent years, a progressive movement has intensified to close private prisons and reduce prison populations.

Colorado’s inmate population is around 20,000. The DOC has a budget approaching $1 billion.

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