Colorado Closes Empty $208 Million Solitary Confinement Prison

Friday, November 09, 2012
Centennial South Prison (photo: Tracy Harmon, Pueblo Chieftain)

Lawmakers in Colorado have some explaining to do as to why they approved the building of a costly new prison that never was more than a third full.


Nine years ago, the legislature okayed a $208 million expenditure to construct Colorado State Penitentiary II (also known as Centennial South), which consists of 948 solitary-confinement cells and little else (no dining room, no gym, for example).


Republicans wanted the prison, claiming the corrections system would need more bed space. Critics objected to an all-solitary confinement facility, citing a lack of need, as well as Colorado’s unnaturally high rate of isolating its prisoners.


Democratic lawmakers didn’t want the prison, but they did want a new medical campus for the University of Colorado. So they brokered a deal with Republicans to support each other’s projects, and the prison got the green light.


Colorado law requires voter approval of any project that adds to the state’s debt, but prison proponents skirted this obstacle by using a financial trick in which, instead of borrowing directly, the state sold certificates to investors who technically became the operators of the prison.


But once the prison was completed, the state discovered it didn’t need it. Projections of future inmate populations turned out to be wrong, by about 7,500 prisoners or 36%.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Colorado Spending $208 Million On Empty Solitary Confinement Prison (by David Olinger, Denver Post)


Karen 11 years ago
California has an over-population problem, instead of releasing criminals out of our jails into society, why don't we just pay Colorado to house them in that nice empty jail? A win-win for sure!!!

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