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Cost, safety questions raised over CCA riot.

Clash kindles questions of cost, safety
By John J. Sanko
Rocky Mountain News
July 22, 2004

A Colorado lawmaker whose district includes eight state-run prisons said Wednesday the riot at the private Crowley County facility raises critical questions about the safety and cost-effectiveness of private prisons.

Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said she was alarmed when she first got word of the rioting and the possibility that inmates and guards might have been seriously hurt or killed.

She intends to press her colleagues during the 2005 session to take a much closer look at the state's contracts with private prisons.

She had raised the alarm on the House floor this year during a debate over a bill pushed by legislative budget writers that would make it easier to seek competitive proposals from private prison providers.

"It's not just the cost," she said. "My concern also is for the safety of the general public, as well as the people working in, and even those confined in, these facilities.

"This is the second riot at the same facility since 1999. These prisons are built in rural areas, where there is little law enforcement to help out. They may not have sufficient manpower themselves, and they may be poorly trained and equipped."

But Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar, chairman of the legislature's budget-writing committee, noted that prisons - both state and private - are dangerous places. He said he wants to see a full report on what happened.

"It sounds like a full-scale riot broke out really fast," Young said. "You do everything you can to prevent that kind of thing. It doesn't mean they weren't doing a good job."

Young said constructing prisons is "a huge cost" and added that with the economic downturn that occurred a little more than two years ago, "the state couldn't afford to keep up with the inmate population increases we've seen."

"There definitely is some economy for doing it through the private sector," he said.

But McFadyen said she hoped what occurred would help bring a better awareness of the true cost to the state and local governments where private prisons are located.

"As a state legislator, I have frequently questioned the hard cost of contracting with private prisons," she said. "No one can give me an exact amount. The question is, are we risking the safety of the public and is it really cheaper? We must have answers to those questions.",1299,DRMN_21_3055156,00.html

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