An economic study of state prisons, first reported on by the DCI last January, has been completed and the results will be distributed statewide this week.
Local leaders will be waiting eagerly to learn any clues as to the fate of the Delta Correctional Center, one of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities being evaluated for possible closure.
The study was commissioned by the General Assembly last October in response to declining prison populations across the state. The study, being conducted by the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) of Alexandria, Va., aims to evaluate the economic viability of DOC facilities.
The DCI reported last January on a tour of the Delta Correctional Center (DCC) by a consultant who met with local leaders. They gave him an hour-long briefing on the importance of the DCC to the local community and economy.
The CNA consultant doing the DCC evaluation, Mike Lane of Springfield, Ill., advised the county commissioners and others at that meeting, "I don't want to sound alarmist, but you want to keep your eye on this ball."
There will be many eyes on that ball Thursday, June 20, when the results of the study are released.
The Department of Corrections has shuttered 2,503 prison beds because of declining prison populations. The move has saved the state $55.2 million from the DOC's $750 million annual budget.
Results of the study will go to the General Assembly's Joint Budget Committee. Any final decisions on closing more DOC facilities will be made by the General Assembly, probably next year.
At a meeting conducted by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in Delta on June 13, the study was again outlined to local leaders and interested individuals. The prison study will be conducted on the basis of statistics and economic numbers, officials said.
But a cold analysis of numbers and statistics is hardly adequate to show what the DCC means to Delta and surrounding communities. That point was made by two people at the June 13 meeting here: County Treasurer Jim Ventrello and Lettie Hellman.
Ventrello told the visiting officials, "The DCC facility has been a part of this community for 50 years. I remember growing up that we would see a van of inmates at the drive-in movie. They attended the rodeo, and they had teams in the local recreation leagues," Ventrello said.
"The community accepts the DCC and it has become an important part of the community. How can the statistical report that is being done look at that?" Ventrello asked.
"We're trying to measure what we can measure," said a legislative staff member involved with the study. It will be "an analysis of the most economical and efficient use of prison beds in a declining prison population environment."
Lettie Hellman told the state officials that the DCC facility "has been a godsend to us in every way. And, we have been a godsend to it, as Jim Ventrello has said."
Hellman noted that the beautiful chapel at the DCC was built entirely with local volunteer resources and "not a dime of tax money" was used in it. "The way that lives are turned around out there is amazing," she said.
The Life Learning and other programs available at the DCC have produced a low recidivism rate and, "Hardened criminals have said that Delta made the difference in their lives. Please do not close our facility. We need it, and they need us."
The Delta Correctional Center currently houses about 300 inmates but has beds for 480.blog comments powered by Disqus