Juvenile Behavior

What's the real reason the state pulled forty boys from a controversial private prison?

And now that network crews have pulled out of town, High Plains may ride high again. The Department of Human Services believes it has the statutory power to yank the facility's license immediately, says Eisnach. Instead, authorities have initiated a lengthy hearing process over the license, and the prison remains open for business. And even if Rebound does lose its license one day, Eisnach acknowledges, it could always get it back by making "program changes."

Furthermore, Rebound has one of Colorado's most effective lobbyists on its team. Carl "Bev" Bledsoe was speaker of Colorado's House of Representatives from 1981 to 1990. Ten years ago this month, he succeeded in passing the legislation that authorized Lotto games in Colorado and funneled the money to prison-building efforts. Bledsoe also worked hard to see that private firms were allowed to bid on some of those prisons. (Lotto money now goes to the state's open-space programs; Rebound and other private prison firms are paid through the state's general fund.)

Getting the original legislation passed wasn't easy for Bledsoe. He had to rustle up 44 votes in the House, enough to override a veto from Governor Roy Romer, who was against the expansion of state-run gambling. "The pressure was unbelievable," recalls state senator Don Ament, of Bledsoe's lobbying campaign. "He called me in his office every day to see if I'd changed my mind yet."

State senator Dorothy Rupert, a Boulder Democrat, also recalls Bledsoe's high-pressure approach: She and other legislators, she says, "would just sit there while Bev took people into his hothouse."

Immediately after Bledsoe left the job of house speaker, he became a lobbyist for Rebound. The company currently pays Bledsoe's company $30,000 per year, according to records on file with the secretary of state. Bledsoe says other people in his firm are working on the Rebound issue. "I haven't really been involved in that," he says.

Whether or not Bledsoe is involved personally, there's no doubt that Rebound is putting on a full-court press of lobbying, telling lawmakers the $45 million facility proposed at Lowry is too big and won't effectively rehabilitate juvenile criminals. Company lobbyists have even told legislators that the state pulled the boys out of High Plains as a political ploy to highlight the need for more state prisons.

Eisnach says Rebound is unique in its combative statehouse stance. The DYC contracts with more than twenty private companies, including others that provide services similar to Rebound's. But Rebound is the only one that regularly battles the Department of Human Services at the state capitol.

"I would say Rebound is the most aggressive in making sure it is well represented legally and politically," says Eisnach.

One thing over which Rebound has no control, though, is the Dateline NBC report. A network spokesman says the program is now being reviewed by NBC attorneys and is expected to air this week.

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