Senators hope to keep Rifle prison open |

Senators hope to keep Rifle prison open

RIFLE – Republican Sens. Josh Penry and Al White today said they will fight to stop Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to close a minimum security prison in Garfield County.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for tonight at the Colorado Mountain College Rifle Campus on Airport Road at 7 p.m. to discuss the possible closure.

“Closing the Rifle Correctional Facility is bad public policy at a time when the state needs every prison bed we can get,” said Penry, of Grand Junction, the Senate’s GOP chief. “Sen. White and I are going to put our shoulder down and do everything we can to stop the Ritter Administration from closing this important prison facility.”

Several weeks ago Ritter announced his intention to close the Rifle Correctional Center on Colorado’s Western Slope in an attempt to help the state deal with a budget shortfall. Reports state that closing the facility will only save $600,000 every year. Department of Corrections officials, who brought the plan to Ritter, said they hope to find a buyer for the prison and estimate the sale could generate $7.7 million. So far, however, no buyers have expressed interest in the prison.

“I don’t think it makes sense to close the facility for a number of reasons,” said White. “Our prisons are full as it is and if we close the Rifle prison now and down the line need to build another prison, all cost-saving plans will be negated.”

“Also, the Rifle facility has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the state,” White said. “If we mix these prisoners in other facilities, any savings will be eaten up by additional recidivating prisons.”

White, who is the Senate Republican member on the powerful Joint Budget Committee, said he is working to find the money needed to keep the Rifle facility open.

“Al White’s on the budget committee for exactly this reason ” to make sure the Western Slope doesn’t bear more than its share of budget cuts,” Penry said.

White’s senate district includes most of Garfield County.

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