As Democrats try to end private prisons in Colorado, critics warn of economic ruin for rural areas
The first steps in a push by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic leaders to stop the use of private prisons in Colorado are generating criticism and concern about the potential economic impact in rural areas.
The House will vote on a package of spending legislation this week that allows the state to reopen a shuttered prison in Cañon City to accommodate inmates ahead of the March 7 closure of the Cheyenne Mountain Reentry Center, a private prison in Colorado Springs.
The shift from private prisons is expected to be the most contentious debate on the supplemental budget bills that begins Wednesday.
The spending package includes $127 million in additional spending in the current and prior fiscal year, largely for increases in Medicaid and education costs, among other areas. The new spending represents a fraction of the state’s total spending, which tops $30 billion a year, but the larger policy implications are drawing most of the attention.
The state is scrambling to reopen the state-run Centennial Correctional Facility South, a one-time maximum-security facility, before GEO Group closes its private prison next month, an abrupt move that came after it was targeted by the Polis administration.
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Under the best possible scenario, it will be several years before Interstate 70 is expanded through East Vail. But some residents are concerned now.