by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG- The news keeps getting worse on efforts to keep the CCA prison open in Walsenburg. Meetings were held last week with employees of the facility and word from the meeting is that no new contract for prisoners is imminent.
Some employees have gotten job transfers to other CCA facilities. According to sources, many employees are jumping ship and some transfers are being delayed so that the local prison has enough workers to keep the facility operating. CCA officials have not returned calls to the Journal to verify that. Arizona announced two weeks ago that it was pulling its out-of-state prisoners back.
CCA has a new prison slated to open in Nevada in the coming months. Employees here are encouraged to apply for positions there. Meanwhile CCA is apparently laying off as many as 1,000 workers nationwide because of the shortfall of prisoners to fill their beds. Two CCA facilities in Oklahoma are affected by the pulling out of Arizona prisoners and face closure too. Other CCA facilities may also be affected.
Colorado has a new prison facility built near Canon City but it is sitting empty apparently because the state does not have the funds to hire workers to staff it. State run prisons, like the one in Trinidad, usually pay higher salaries and benefits than private companies like CCA.
While the Journal reported the impact last week on the City of Walsenburg and Huerfano County, there will be additional problems faced by the school systems. If parents who have children in the local schools move out of the area to take other jobs, it could have a big impact on school enrollment this year and certainly next school year. Enrollment numbers affect how much money is received from the State of Colorado. Schools are already facing big financial hits to their budget and the closing of the CCA facility in Walsenburg is not going to help matters at all.
The prison is looking to close in April if new contracts to bring prisoners in cannot be found. Efforts will continue but the outlook is not good for the moment.