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Southern Colorado Counties Oppose Prison Closure

fort lyon.jpg
Colorado Department of Corrections
Fort Lyon Correctional Facility

A group that represents 22 Southern Colorado counties opposes a move by Governor John Hickenlooper to close a prison in Las Animas.

Action 22 said yesterday that it opposes closing the Fort Lyon correctional facility in an area that needs jobs and where 14 counties have high poverty levels. Hickenlooper said in his budget proposal this week that closing the prison would cut 149 jobs. But Bill Long, a commissioner in Bent County where the prison is located, says the move would not only result in lost jobs, but would also devastate the local economy.

“We probably have a population of 5,000, a workforce of 1,200 to 1,300 so to lose 100 to 150 actual local jobs is tough,” he said.

Long and others of Action 22 said they understand the state is struggling financially, but the bulk of state jobs targeted by Hickenlooper are in Southern Colorado. Legislators will consider Hickenlooper's proposal as they try to cover an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall.