Year in review: Rifle state prison survives threatened cutback
The Rifle Correctional Center, north of Rifle Gap Reservoir, survived another threatened cutback or closure this year, after state prison officials came to Rifle to explain a sharp drop in state prisoner numbers, which translated into funding concerns.
The drop was sharpest in minimum security prisons, which includes the Rifle prison.
However, an outpouring of support by local officials and others for the local prison occurred at a June 13 meeting at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle, and the prison – as well as all others in the state – received an at least one-year reprieve.
During the state’s 2011-12 fiscal year, prison population dropped by an average of 131 inmates a month, according to a handout from the meeting. That rate increased to 140 inmates a month in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
While officials said inmate projections are uncertain, if the numbers continued to decline and more surplus beds resulted, cutbacks and closures would likely be on the table again.
The Rifle facility had a more than $3.5 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year and employed 48 full-time equivalent staff members, according to state Budget Director Henry Sobanet. The facility’s average annual cost per inmate was $24,813 in the 2011-12 fiscal year, the second highest among the four minimum security prisons in the state. State lawmakers were told that minimum security prisons, like Rifle, have the highest vacant bed rate at 18 percent.
This year’s consideration of closing the Rifle prison followed a 2009 plan to close the Rifle prison. Shortly after then-Gov. Bill Ritter proposed the closure due to state budget shortfalls, an outcry from Rifle officials and residents helped lead Ritter to withdraw the plan.
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