COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – On Tuesday, the GEO Group notified the Colorado Department of Corrections that they intend to close the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center in 60 days. CDOC officials are now tasked with rehousing the private prison’s nearly 650 male inmates in two months.
In a statement, the GEO Group said Gov. Jared Polis identified CMRC for closure in his budget for the next fiscal year.
“Since that announcement, and related legislative hearings, we have experienced challenges in retaining and recruiting staff at CMRC,” stated a spokesperson for the GEO Group. “We will work with the DOC to develop a transition plan and prioritize the health, safety and well-being of CMRC staff and residents. The state has made its intentions clear; that it wants to manage this population within its own facilities, and we will work with them toward that end.“
As part of the budget process, CDOC proposed phasing out offenders at CMRC and re-opening two towers of Centennial South (CCF-S) in Canon City to house offenders. The CCF-S facility closed in 2012 and is not currently in operation.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Polis said the governor hopes to work with the legislature to open the newly built, but never used, state facility:
“The department was in the process of making preparations for this transition because the facility is operationally inefficient, has struggled to maintain a stable workforce and consistently fell short of contractual obligation but it is unfortunate that the contractor was quick to make this financially motivated decision. This is another reason the state should not heavily rely on private prisons which are clearly motivated by profit margins and which, studies have shown, do not help reduce recidivism.”
CDOC officials hope to transfer close-custody offenders from other officials to CCF-S and use the vacated beds for medium-custody offenders impacted by the closing at CMRC. Officials said the CCF-S facility has been updated to house close-custody offenders with more extensive management needs.
Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Dean Williams said there were ongoing contract discussions with GEO Group and leadership with CMRC. Officials were concerned about a lack of offender programs and a high turn-over rate at the prison.
“The use of private prisons in our state does not just raise philosophical or ethical questions, but also creates serious operational concerns when a for-profit company can choose to close its doors and leave the department to navigate what to do with 650 offenders,” said Williams. “Although we are disappointed by their decision, we are confident that as a department we will be able to manage the considerable impact of this change safely.”