Charter Rights
Story Archives
Sign Our Guestbook
View Guestbook
Contact Capp @   or   Post Comments  CAPP Message Board   and  Any Upcoming Events

Who’s this Frank Smith guy?

Criminal justice activist says Crowley riot wasn't a surprise
By Karen Vigil
The Pueblo Chieftain

A criminal justice reform activist says he's been hearing from Crowley County Correctional Facility staff members and former staffers for the past 15 months about problems at the private prison in Olney Springs.

In fact, Frank Smith said, two inmates warned prison staffers about a possible uprising a week before Tuesday night's riot at the prison.

Smith said he was told that information was passed on to Colorado Department of Corrections officials, but "nothing was done."

Smith, a Kansas resident, said prison staffers began talking to him after he spoke on a Pueblo radio talk show last fall against a private prison locating in Pueblo and gave out his e-mail address.

"I've been fighting private prisons for about eight years. I'm a retired activist," he said during a phone call from his home. "I got hold of whistle-blowers from CCA (Corrections Corp. of America) and they have filled me with information for the last 15 months."

Smith said the news has gotten worse recently.

"In fact, one gave me information two months ago that the situation was getting very tense in Olney Springs, that the staff was very concerned when the Washington prisoners would get there, and that there were things like rebar laying around the place from construction that nobody bothered to pick up, nobody recognized as weapons."

Smith said he was told that inmates on Tuesday freed inmates in administrative segregation cells, while prison staffers "locked themselves in" to protect themselves.

Smith heard the situation never was one of prisoners against guards.

"It wasn't a thing of, 'We're going to capture all these guards and blow our way out of there.' But, they almost got out; they were two doors away from getting out," he said of the riot.

Smith said he's heard that Colorado inmates were upset about new arrivals from Washington state getting preferential treatment.

Aside from the current Crowley County prison crisis, Smith charges that Corrections Corp. of America, the prison's Nashville, Tenn.- based management company, has a track record of ignoring security problems.

He also accused Corrections Corp. of America of "terrible wages, terrible training, fraudulent record-keeping, manufacturing of records (to meet standards), hiring people that were clearly inappropriate, gang-connected people, stuff like that."

Smith plans to hold a news conference today in Pueblo to discuss the Crowley County prison situation. He will be joined by Brian Dawe of Corrections USA, an association of correctional officers from 40 states.

Later today, Smith is scheduled to meet with a group opposing plans for a private prison in Lamar.

Smith contributed to the book, "Capital Punishment - Prison Privatization and Human Rights."

He said he's opposed to private prisons because they treat prisoners and employees poorly, and use their profits to corrupt municipalities and state governments via campaign contributions or "outright bribery."

"They lobby at arm's length for longer sentences. It's more market share and more market (for them)," he said.

| Post Any Upcoming Events | Top of Page | Home Page | Post Comments on Message Board |