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From the week of November 20, 2008

"Con School," Alan Prendergast, November 6

Prose and Cons

Thank you for the story from the ever-brilliant Alan Prendergast concerning the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center. My husband was sent to the facility last fall against his wishes. Upon entry, he was given a Bible and told that he must sign documents indicating his desire to participate in the program or be placed in segregation. It took three months, hundreds of phone calls, one Code of Penal Discipline conviction for failure to work (part of a "deal" with Department of Corrections officials to get my husband relocated) and, finally, the threat to picket the building before my husband was moved from the facility. The article touched only briefly on the religious aspect of the facility, but members of non-Christian faiths are severely limited in their ability to worship. Public schools, courthouses, post offices and other state and federal buildings are barred from displaying such messages. What makes a prison so different? 

I haven't been to the facility since my husband was moved, but when I was visiting, almost every staff member I spoke with was working a double shift — and had been for weeks. The women were dressed in completely revealing clothing that would never be allowed in a state-run facility, and the director at the time (not the current director) didn't even seem to be aware of the fact that the facility was still supposed to be governed by DOC regulations. During the three months my husband was there, he did not get "recreational" time even once. Not even the inmates at CSP are treated this way.

Call your legislators and tell them to take a real look at these jails-for-profit.

Tabitha Fleming

Rocky Ford

I'm a short-timer who did about eight months at CMRC before the current director arrived. I expected this article to be bullshit, but it confronted the chronic problems at the private prison. I could go on about the violence, drugs, booze, thievery and the fact that it had the most crime I've ever experienced packed into a three-story, half-block building. I knew men severely traumatized by the "lock in a sock" by stupid gangbangers, for not being part of the hustle, and also by the extreme lack of professionalism by the staff. The signs, slogans and classes are banal and pathetic, especially given that the "re-entry center" is supposed to be an "alternative" to incarceration, yet exists as the most blatant example of criminal culture I've experienced. Also, hardtimers expecting "love" from the parole board do not get it. CMRC is mainly a DOC safety valve: extra beds.

The points that the article missed:

1) CEC is a business whose main motivation is profit. Some of the tours that classes were staged for were potential stockbuyers.

2) Medical and dental care are woefully inadequate.

3) Soon after I got transferred to Trinidad, 250 beds were added to CMRC, increasing the population from 500 to 750. I'm blessed to have escaped that much more stuffed into an already ripped bag.

Raoul Vehill

via the Internet

Having had the eye-opening experience of having a family member incarcerated at Cheyenne Mountain this past summer, and also having had the unenviable opportunity of "visiting" there, I could have written this article myself based on what I observed and what I was told about the facility on a daily basis. I have visited several other state correctional facilities, and CMRC is the only one in which I felt absolutely unsafe. The larger problem is that there are many, many people in the system who are absolutely, fully and completely aware of the problems that exist at CMRC. But the "powers that be" — i.e., the parole board and the local community corrections boards that have the ultimate say-so on if and when an inmate is released to the community — have been completely hoodwinked by the fantasy that is CMRC, and, for whatever reason, have chosen to continue to turn a blind eye to the seriousness of the issues there.

Alas, nothing will be done about CMRC until something tragic happens — which it will — and then there will be a typical knee-jerk reaction to attempt to correct whatever went wrong. The bottom line is, no one cares about offenders. Period.

Ilona Smith

Littleton

"Survival of the Fittest," Alan Prendergast, October 23

Animal Instincts

Thank you for the excellent article on the Wild Animal Sanctuary and for highlighting the problem of captive wildlife. To set the record straight, when Pat Craig announced that the facility might have to close a couple of years ago, it was not a fundraising ploy. It was a heart-wrenching realization that he was almost out of funds and other sanctuaries were unable to take the animals. If you have no money and no other options, euthanasia is a more humane response than what other facilities have done in the past: left the animals to starve. The reason other sanctuaries could not assist is that there are only a handful of bona fide sanctuaries able to handle the large carnivores, while there are tens of thousands of these animals in private ownership (not in zoos) in the United States. Legislation banning such ownership is desperately needed.

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