Why Closing the Fort Lyon Prison Isn't as Easy as It Seems

February 2011

Governor John Hickenlooper doesn't have many options when it comes to balancing the state budget: For the time being, cuts are an inevitable piece of the puzzle. While his slashing of education dollars has riled teachers' unions and educators, Westword heralds the closing of the 485-bed Fort Lyon Correctional Facility in southern Colorado, where it discovered numerous health hazards and financial problems in 2007: "[T]rying to revive a rural economy with prison jobs isn't such a bright idea to start with, and Fort Lyon may have done more harm than good for the 'special needs' population it was supposed to serve."

Nevertheless, Westword laments the loss of jobs in the economically depressed area. According to the Pueblo Chieftain, the closure will eliminate 204 positions and save about $6.3 million a year. More than jobs, officials in Bent County—population 6,500—are wondering how the city of Las Animas, where the prison is located, will survive. One-quarter of the town's revenue is derived from the hospital's utility bills alone.