Legislators say they’ll push to keep Rifle facility open

Northwest Colorado’s two state senators renewed their pledge Tuesday to fight a plan from Gov. Bill Ritter to close a Garfield County minimum-security prison.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said closing the Rifle Correctional Facility will hurt not only the prison’s workers, but also the state, which needs “every prison bed we can get.”

Gov. Ritter proposed closing the Rifle prison as part of his plan to cut $1 billion out of this year and next year’s budgets.

The closure of the 192-bed facility, the governor’s budget staff said, would save the state roughly $600,000 a year.

“Our prisons are full as it is, and if we close the Rifle prison now and down the line need to build another prison, all cost-saving plans will be negated,” said Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.

The Colorado Department of Corrections has worked over the past several years to expand its public prison capacity instead of relying more heavily on private prisons.

The lack of public bed space has given private prison firms, which house roughly one-fifth of the state’s prison inmates, a great deal of leverage over the state.

White said the Joint Budget Committee will consider the prison-closure issue along with other 2009-2010 fiscal year budget cuts later this month.



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