McPrison

How a private prison brought jobs-and violence, corruption and scandal-to Burlington.

In all, Orduno claims to have suffered seven assaults since he came to Kit Carson. The worst one, he says, came just a few weeks ago, after he mentioned to another inmate a rumor that someone had "taken out a contract" on a much-disliked guard. A few hours later, that same guard visited him and told him he was being taken to administrative segregation -- "thrown in the hole," in prison lingo -- on a charge of threatening an officer.

"He comes in with another guard, handcuffs me, and as I'm walking out the door, he kicks me in the nuts and the other guard pops me in the eye," he says.

Orduno spent two weeks in the hole. All charges against him were then dismissed. He's had no satisfaction from Warden Waller, he says, and other KCCC officers have warned him against talking to the DOC's investigators.

Cold storage: The Kit Carson Correctional Center emplys mostly local workers  --  with no prior corrections experience.
Cold storage: The Kit Carson Correctional Center emplys mostly local workers -- with no prior corrections experience.
Cold storage: The Kit Carson Correctional Center emplys mostly local workers  --  with no prior corrections experience.
Brett Amole
Cold storage: The Kit Carson Correctional Center emplys mostly local workers -- with no prior corrections experience.

"I was told from the get-go that if I made a statement, my chances of getting out of here were zero," he says. "I would bet money that they try to ad-seg me for this [interview]. This is the birthplace of retaliation. I'm surprised they don't hold seminars on how to do it."

Almost every inmate contacted by Westword (and some staffers as well) expressed fear of retribution for talking to a reporter. Waller says he "can't recall having one inmate that has brought to me an issue about any kind of retaliation." Often, he notes, inmates make such claims when they're being disciplined for their own bad behavior.

Yet the problems that have surfaced at Kit Carson are more complicated than the friction between aggressive guards and defiant prisoners. If some staff were quite willing to manhandle their charges, others were apparently prepared to do business with them. And the business, by all accounts, could be quite lucrative.


One night last April, four male supervisors at Kit Carson -- a captain, a lieutenant and two sergeants -- allegedly led a young female corrections officer into a deserted office at the prison. Some shenanigans ensued involving handcuffs and pepper spray. All four of the male officers were subsequently dismissed for sexual harassment. (One staffer, who apparently had a peripheral role in the affair, was fired and later rehired.) The female officer was soon promoted to sergeant.

Warden Alford reportedly said that the officers were engaging in "horseplay, but the recipient didn't perceive it that way." No criminal charges have been filed over the incident, although Mark Adams, the district attorney for Kit Carson County, says he hasn't ruled out such a move.

CCA acted swiftly to deal with this embarrassing case of misfired horseplay, but in other instances, it's been far more circumspect. Inmates are full of lurid gossip about staffers being caught in compromising positions with other officers' wives or husbands, despite a company policy against fraternization. Some employees have allegedly been dismissed after such encounters; others haven't. Although the morale questions raised by these stories are troubling enough, administrators have also been wrestling with violations of an even greater taboo: sexual relationships between staff and inmates.

The DOC and CCA have been understandably tight-lipped about discussing any aspects of the allegations of sexual misconduct. "There is an ongoing investigation," notes CCA spokeswoman Susan Hart. "In order not to jeopardize that, I can't comment on any specifics."

But according to staff and inmate sources, one male officer and several female staffers are suspected of having sex with prisoners, resulting in at least one pregnancy. Some of the liaisons may have been romantic entanglements, but in others, the motive apparently was profit. Prostitution, along with a thriving black-market business in cigarettes and dope, managed to find their way into Kit Carson shortly after it opened.

A medium-security prison may not seem like the ideal place for bumping uglies with the opposite sex, but Kit Carson had all the right ingredients: an inexperienced, underpaid staff, 40 percent of them female; a horde of seasoned cons, well-versed in scams; and a glaring absence of supervision.

Security was so lax that one female officer boasted of receiving a tattoo from a prisoner while she was on duty. For months, one entire pod was virtually empty, offering a convenient meeting place for staff and prisoners during the under-manned night shift. There was also a utility closet that quickly became known as the "fuck closet," a place for discreet encounters of an urgent nature. For as little as a hundred bucks a week, inmates say, the right Mr. Wrong could get a can of tobacco, maybe a little marijuana, and a trip to the closet for good measure.

"You'd be surprised what some of these guys have," says Jack Carr. "Not in their inmate accounts, but all it takes is a phone call. If I wanted you to bring something in here and I was willing to pay you, I could have somebody send you a money order to a post-office box, money that doesn't even connect to you."

Carr believes that the temptation to make a little extra money on the side would have been "huge" among employees making ten bucks an hour. "I just do my time, but some of these inmates really make it hard on staff," he says. "You can't come in here and work right with them all day long without them trying to get close to you, trying to get you to do things for them."

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