The feds are shutting down private prisons. But in Colorado it’s business as usual.

The feds are shutting down private prisons. But in Colorado it’s business as usual.


News today that the Department of Justice plans to phase out its use of private prisons, calling them less safe and less effective than ones run by the government, won’t impact Colorado.

Colorado currently has three private prisons around the state, but none of them contract with the federal government.

The feds made their groundbreaking decision after studying the efficacy of private prisons in America, and issuing a critical report of how those prisons function. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the news in a memo.

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” she wrote in the memo.

Only 13 prisons across the country will be shut down as a result of the decision. In all, the phase-out will reduce the population of inmates in private prisons in America by May 2017 to about 14,000, or nearly half. Privately run detention facilities, of which Colorado has three, will not be affected.

“It’s a good day,” says Christie Donner, director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, a group that opposed private prisons since its founding in the 1990s. 

“There’s just no appropriate way to inject a for-profit motive into corrections,” Donner says. “It’s just completely inappropriate.”

In Colorado, private prisons are on the wane. 

Last month, the private Kit Carson Correctional Center, which is run by Corrections Corporation of America, became the fourth private prison to shut down in Colorado since 2009.

Lawmakers in Colorado had given millions in bailout money to the prison to try and keep it afloat. During last year’s legislative session, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper rankled some lawmakers when he quietly requested $3 million from state budget writers to try and save the prison, which housed 580 inmates and employed 142 workers.

Some workers still remain at the prison and are readying it for closure. A worker who answered the phone there on Aug. 18 said the crew should be done by  Sept. 3.

The three private prisons currently operating in Colorado are the Bent County Correctional Facility in Las Animas, the Cheyenne Mountain Re-entry Center in Colorado Springs, and the Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs.

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey via Creative Commons in Flickr.

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project.


  1. Will Morrison on said:

    There are very few, if any, clearer signs of the fall of our society than for profit prisons. These should NEVER have been allowed in this state or any other. They are a travesty and an immoral stain on us as a nation and especially as a state. They have been nothing but a drain on our budget, costing us FAR more than they promised to save with their “efficiencies”.

    Sorry folks, but the math cannot add up. You cannot take something that the state ran on a no profit basis, tack on 30% for the big boys who don’t do ANY of the work, and expect anything but shoddy, less than standard services for your inflated costs. This is the problem with ALL privatization schemes, or as I call them PIRATIZATION. These are doomed to failure, just like pretty much ALL right wing schemes, largely because the intent of them is NOT to provide good services, but to MAKE PROFIT. The services actually mean NOTHING, it’s all cost cutting so the big boys can give themselves bonuses.

    It’s wonderful that the Feds are stopping this. It’s time to bring this type of thinking to this state. Time to lose the last 3. They are a stain, and it’s time to clean them up.

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