Private Prison Faces Grassroots Opposition

Citizens in Ault will speak to board members in opposition to a proposed new private prison in the area tonight.  Representing “Coalition Against the Ault Prision”, the group hopes to reverse the Town Board’s decision in May to allow the Colorado Department of Corrections to contract out the 1,500-bed medium security prison to Florida-based Geo Group Inc.Tasha Greene, organizer of the opposition group, doesn’t have much faith the Town Board will listen to the concerns of her group.  Quoted in today’s Greely Tribune:

“There are a few people we talked to that want this prison 100 percent, but the fast majority are dead set against it,” Greene said.

Though Ault residents have an hour to present comments at tonight’s meeting, Greene said she is unsure if the board will take her group’s concerns to heart.

“We get a sense that they will do what they want to do,” Greene said. “Who cares about public opinion?”

Controversy surrounded the awarding of this contract to Geo Group Inc. back in June.  The Rocky Mountain News on June 9 quoted Dem. Rep Buffie McFadyen of Pueblo raising concern:

Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said in her letter to the Legislative Audit Committee that Nolin Renfrow had been DOC’s director of prisons until he retired recently. She said he quickly went to work as a consultant for The Geo Group, formerly Wackenhut, on a private prison proposal that has become a finalist.

“It is reasonable to assume Geo may have had, or has, what could be considered proprietary information. At the very least, Renfrow may have given his client, Geo, an unfair bidding advantage,” McFadyen wrote in her letter.

McFadyen also questioned why Geo is a finalist at all, when it has been unable to build another private prison it contracted to build for DOC three years ago. Geo has run into repeated zoning issues on that planned facility in Pueblo and has yet to break ground.

She also questioned why Geo is asking Pueblo to use city bonds to finance that prison, when the company won the bid with the promise of private financing.

McFayden also mentions another private prison firm, Tennessee-based Corrections Corp. of America.  Interesting to note that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has received almost $10,000 in campaign contributions from Corrections Corp. of America executives, including $1,000 from both the CFO Irving Lingo and the President John Ferguson.

 

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Paul Preston

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