IP-19-88 (September 1988)
Author: Steve Shwiff and Gale Norton
The prison problem in Colorado is reaching the boiling point. In brief, there are far more prisoners that room. Existing state facilities are bulging — and another 575 state prisoners are housed in country jails, themselves approaching capacity while payment disputes continue.
If two new 500-bed prisons are not built soon, the overflow could number 1800 by 1991. The Colorado Department of Corrections, in its recent additional prison beds will be needed by 1991.
Causes mentioned for the crisis range from tougher sentencing laws that keep inmates in prison longer, to the failure of planners in past years to foresee the rising prison population. Whatever the cause, new prison capacity is needed now — or the state will be forced to release some criminals beck to the streets, plainly an unacceptable option.
Meeting this need will be expensive. Governor Romer’s proposal for expanding the prison system, rejected by the 1988 legislature, carried a $145 million price tag. But the state budget must also fund other pressing needs.