One Bad Turn Deserves Another

Legislators try to tighten the state's grip on prisoners.

Inmates know that punching a guard is a felony, so most avoid doing that. But throwing bodily secretions is a misdemeanor that rarely gets prosecuted. Schwarz says he wants prisoners to know he's serious about protecting the guards, so his bill would make even spitting on a guard a felony that would add from two to six years to a sentence.

The bill would also help guards in one other way. Under current privacy laws, a guard can't find out about the medical history of an inmate. If Schwarz's bill becomes law, the guards will be considered victims of felony assault if they get hit with a bodily secretion. And under another part of Colorado law, victims of felony assault have the right to learn about the medical history of their assailants. Schwarz says guards are concerned that they could be exposed not only to HIV, but to hepatitis, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. Under his measure, they could find out just what they are dealing with.

And there may be more clashes between guards and prisoners, simply because the prison population is growing. Perhaps the most significant single bit of prison legislation this session is House Bill 1244, under which DOC would build 660 new beds in Trinidad and Pueblo and overhaul 500 more beds at the Four Mile and Buena Vista complexes.

Schweigert says the boom is just beginning. Notes the lobbyist, "I can foresee needing a [capital construction] bill every year."

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