Colo. prison crime rise attributed to overcrowding |

Colo. prison crime rise attributed to overcrowding

DENVER – Colorado prisons are overflowing with violent offenders who are being housed in medium-security correctional institutions, prompting a rise in violence, a state prison official said.

Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said the inmates who are supposed to be held in the highest-security facilities were mainly responsible for an increase of assaults against other staffers and inmates in 2008. Prison officials also said that in three separate cases where inmates were killed since November, the suspects should’ve been housed in higher-security facilities.

A $208 million maximum-security prison is being completed this summer with 948 beds in Canon City, but a lack of state funding will prevent it from opening in the near future. To run the facility and pay for staff, it would cost $20.5 million.

Sanguinetti said the lack of space at maximum-security facilities means that more than 1,300 inmates throughout Colorado are not being held at places where security conditions are appropriate for their risk level.

“We can talk about being frugal and tightening our belts, but what’s happening at the Department of Corrections shows us a real-world example of what happens when we aren’t able to provide services,” said Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat and chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said one long-term fix could be releasing nonviolent inmates out of prison if they could be managed safely in the community to make room in correctional facilities for more serious offenders.

The Colorado Department of Correction said that in 2008, inmate-on-inmate assault cases increased from the previous year by 17 percent to 446. At the same time, officials said assaults against prison staffers increased by 16 percent to 300.

Information from: The Denver Post,

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