As Colorado tackles the issues around a declining prison population, Colorado WINS is releasing a new report that outlines how Colorado relies on the for-profit prisons and highlights the importance of prioritizing a transition away from them. “Imprisoned by Profit: Breaking Colorado’s Dependence on For-Profit Prisons” examines the costs and benefits and concludes that since the incarceration crisis of 20 years ago has receded and the state has a surplus of bed space, we need to put public facilities first.
“It is time for policymakers to step back and evaluate Colorado’s continued utilization of for-profit prisons,” said Scott Wasserman, Executive Director of Colorado WINS. “Is the state actually realizing any cost-savings when they contract with for-profit prisons? Should Coloradans’ tax dollars continue to support an industry that profits from human incarceration?”
“As a corrections officer, I take my responsibilities to my profession and to taxpayers seriously,” said David Pertz, a Colorado WINS board member and a corrections officer in Delta. “I am fully accountable to the public and to policy makers. This is not always true of for-profit prisons. And as we found with the Crowley riot in 2004, too often public workers and taxpayers are left holding the bag when something goes wrong. We need to put public good and taxpayer accountability first, not multibillion dollar corporate profits.”
According to the report, “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 million and CCA was guaranteed a minimum offender population. For the 2013/2014 fiscal year the department is now requesting an additional increase in [per-diem] payments to our for-profit prison providers.”
However, the report notes, there are a lot of hidden costs associated with relying on for-profit prisons. “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.”
And there is a bigger question to be addressed, “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.”
Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee will take up Department of Corrections figure-setting for FY2013-14 on March 13th.