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Colorado DOC Toughens Private Prison Contracts

In response to a scathing audit, the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) told state lawmakers in October 2005 that the Department is making the recommended changes.

Six private prisons scattered across Colorado's eastern plains hold over 4,000 of the state's prisoners. An audit conducted by the state found numerous problems, including inadequate staffing, unlicensed medical clinics, employees with criminal backgrounds, and poor food services. [PLN, April 2006, p. 18]

The principal change touted by CDOC Director of Prisons Nolan Renfrow was tough new contracts with the private prisons. Under the new contracts, private prisons may be fined if they are not up to CDOC standards. Chronic problems can lead to larger fines and, ultimately, to termination of the contracts. Some lawmakers were concerned that the new contracts are not tough enough. State Representative Fran Coleman said, "I'm not sure the liquidated damages have enough hammer to them." Indeed, the threat of pulling prisoners from private prisons rings hollow. Colorado is scrambling to find prison beds and, in January 2006, issued a request for proposals for a 2,250-bed private prison.

Director Renfrow told lawmakers that the CDOC's private prison monitoring unit, skewered in the audit, has been improved with new leadership and staff. Department spokesperson Allison Morgan was reassigned to head the unit.

Nolan Renfrow has since retired from the CDOC. He is now working with two different private prison outfits, Management Traning Corporation and the GEO Group, in submitting separate proposals to the CDOC for private prisons.


Sources: The [Colorado Springs] Gazette, 10/07/05; The Pueblo Chieftain, 2/28/06, 03/15/06. 

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