Colorado's answer to swine flu: Close the prisons?

You got to love the way officials in this state think. According to this item in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Department of Corrections has decided to ban visitors and volunteers from state and private prisons for at least a week, describing the move as a "precautionary" step to keep swine flu out of its facilities.

Swift action to protect one of our most valued and vulnerable populations from the ravages of a deadly virus? You might think so -- although that would be a radical departure from the way prisons usually operate in this state, as breeding grounds for everything from staph infections to tuberculosis to hepatitis C. Having sorted through prisoner medical records for my feature "Death on the Installment Plan," I feel safe in stating that prison health care isn't exactly a top priority in Colorado.

So maybe this is a move to protect staff? Could be: Thus far, no DOC lockup has a single case of swine flu, and it's pretty easy to lock down most of the facilities to try to keep the workplace sneeze-free. But even without visitors or volunteers, the staff could bring the dreaded porcine sniffles in themselves. So what's the point?

Perhaps, just perhaps, there's a more sinister agenda at work. Keep out visitors for "at least" a week? How about a year or two? Long enough, anyway, to do all the cloning and biological experimentation a mad scientist could want, in an effort to develop a race of super flu-resistant specimens. Then, while the rest of the country is reeling from the crippling pandemic, this group of superfelons would emerge to... to... corner the asbestos-removal business, the janitorial services, and all the other grunt work that parolees do, when not absconding from halfway houses and flunking their urine tests.

Any way you look at it, it's a strange plan.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

Latest Stories