From closure to growth for Rifle prison? |

From closure to growth for Rifle prison?

Heidi Rice
Rifle correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Darcy Copeland/snappedya.comExpanding the Rifle Correctional Center is an option, just months after state officials targeted the facility for closure to help the state budget deficit.

RIFLE, Colo. ” What started as a proposal in January to close down the Rifle Correctional Center by Gov. Bill Ritter has now changed in March to a plan that could expand the facility.

Mike Braaten, government affairs and energy coordinator for the city of Rifle, reported he’d heard of the proposed expansion of the center from Ritter.

“It was mentioned in passing from the governor,” Braaten said. “They’d looked at expanding in the early ’90s, but the community was against it.”

Ritter proposed closing the 192-bed facility in January as part of a plan to trim the state’s budget. The closure would have meant the loss of 57 local jobs.

However, Rifle officials and residents voiced loud opposition and asked state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee to oppose the measure, which he did.

Ritter announced in late February that the center would remain open.

“It was [White’s] position with the Joint Budget Committee that allowed us to save the correctional center,” Braaten said.

While there is no formal proposal to expand the center, the state Department of Corrections says it is being discussed.

“There have been no official requests and it would require legislative approval,” said Monica Crocker, acting public information officer for the department. “It is an option. It would be a great long-term investment, but with the economy right now, it has not been officially proposed. But when the time comes ” when the economy comes around ” it could work.”

The expansion would likely include adding more beds to the facility, which would provide a larger inmate population and create more opportunities for jobs and staffing, Crocker said.

“An expansion would require a bill to go through the Legislature, and hopefully, when the budget comes around, we will look at it more seriously,” Crocker said.

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