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This Jail for Hire

Colorado's cheap solution to prison overcrowding has cost inmates plenty. It could cost the state millions.

Sandi says she isn't going to let the issue of out-of-state transfers drop just because her husband is back. "I'm going to be at the legislature this year sobbing buckets," she says, "with my bag of pills and my phone bills. What they did to us is unconscionable. I don't see why they can't take volunteers and prisoners who have relatives in Texas instead of those who have family here."

But for every prisoner reunited with family members by the move, there were others who had to take their place. As before, the selection process seemed entirely random. One of the prisoners flown down to Texas last month was William "Eddie" Neusteter, of the Denver department-store clan, serving eight years for robbery and violation of probation; another was Sean Lankford, serving sixty years for sexual assault and burglary.

Jane Neusteter, Eddie's mother, says she's primarily concerned about the lack of meaningful programs and services--not only for her son, who held up a Denver convenience store by sticking an unloaded gun in a clerk's face, but for the entire contingent of Colorado prisoners in Texas.

"It's a personal heartbreak, but it affects a lot of other people, too--the family members of 500 people," she says. "My son was doing very well, taking computer classes in prison, and now he has no services. I don't understand why they're moving people out of programs. If this is going to be a long-term situation, isn't there some way to support the efforts of those prisoners who are trying to change their lives?"

Lankford's mother, Kathy DeAlba, lost not only her son but her fiance, Doug Boehmer, who was serving time with Lankford at Ordway before being shipped to Karnes City. DeAlba says Boehmer was supposed to be eligible for a work-release program this fall. His detour to Texas will probably change that.

"I don't see that this is productive at all," DeAlba says. "We've got people in prison who don't belong there, and all we're doing is making their time longer. It's the taxpayers who are suffering as well as the families.

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