Colorado May Study How To Phase Out Private Prisons

As states in the Mountain West and beyond debate the merits of private prisons, Colorado is considering a bill that would look at ways to phase them out. 

Among other things, the legislation would direct the Colorado Department of Corrections to study “how to end the practice of using private prisons by 2025.”

“I believe that profit should never be a motive in the prison industry,” said Leslie Herod, the Democratic representative who introduced the bill. “And when we put profit over people, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Opponents of the bill, such as Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, a Republican, say moving away from private prisons will disproportionately harm rural areas that rely on the facilities for jobs. 

“There isn’t a whole lot of opportunity in some of those small rural counties that generate jobs,” Bockenfeld said. “So it’s going to have a huge impact.”

The language in the bill says the study will consider “the economic impacts on affected communities.” It will also look at ways to reduce recidivism and the state’s prison population as a whole. 

The legislation has passed in the House and is now on its way to the Senate. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.