Rifle prison saved

The possibility that the minimum-security prison at Rifle would be closed to help resolve a projected state budget shortfall produced mixed emotions.

It’s true that the prison, the jobs it brings and the economic impact it has, are important to the Rifle community and beyond.

But the state budget problems are severe. Spending over the next 17 months must be slashed by roughly $1 billion. It’s not fair to argue that spending must be cut, then say, “Don’t touch any of the facilities in our backyard.”

Those conflicting ideas were resolved last Friday, however, when Gov. Ritter’s office announced the Rifle prison will remain open.

With the leadership of Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, and the aid of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, Rifle was able to convince Ritter and the state Department of Corrections that closing the Rifle prison was not necessary to resolve the budget crisis.

For one thing, the closure would result in an operational savings of only $600,000 a year.

That’s not pocket change, but it is a minor cut when the state is looking for $1 billion in savings.

More importantly, it would permanently eliminate state prison beds at a time when Colorado is experiencing continued growth in its prison population.

Budget cuts will still have to be made, and some of them will undoubtedly affect state services in western Colorado. But we’re glad to see the Rifle prison will remain open.


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