CCI for Colorado Correctional Industries, the manufacturing subsidiary of the Colorado Department of Corrections. CSP II for Colorado State Penitentiary II, the new mega-prison under construction in Cañon City, Colorado.
Colorado Correctional Industries
Colorado State Penitentiary II
Prisoners working in the metal workshops at the Fremont Correctional Facility in Cañon City, Colorado.
Photos © Philippe Brault
On the site where the future extra high security prison, the Colorado State Penitentiary II (CSP II), is being built to the east of Cañon City, you run into hundreds of construction workers – three hundred and fifty of them to be precise – from every trade. Some of them – twenty to be precise – are kept totally apart from the others. Photographing them is forbidden. They wear construction helmets, but they also have a different uniform from the other workmen. A green uniform. When someone greets them, these workers don’t respond. They’re prisoners. At night they sleep at the Four Mile Correctional, a nearby prison; by day, they push trolleys with gravel in them around the corridors of the future Colorado State Penitentiary II.
For the first time in the history of the Colorado prison system, ten of them have even been co-opted for a special job, an unprecedented job. Welding cells. Hundreds of cells that have been assembled by other prisoners on the other side of the state prison complex a few miles away at the Fremont Correctional Facility metal workshop.
The cells are about ten square metres big. They are built in one piece with a bunk, a toilet and a desk for a brand new system called a kiosk. This will include a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and headphones. This will be the only way the prisoners will be able to receive visits. It’s called video visiting. During our visit, one of the construction foremen told us that the prison would have a real visiting room reserved for visits by lawyers. But the man had no idea where this area would be located when the CSP II is completed (summer 2010).
The kiosk screen will also show TV programmes and allow penitentiary staff and inmates to communicate with each other. The inmates will be able to canteen (i.e. buy everyday products) by computer and check the balance of their bank account. The aim of this high-tech system is to reduce, as much as possible, prisoners having to move around; they will be confined to their cells for 23 hours a day. These inmates – qualified as dangerous or even extremely dangerous – will only be allowed out of their cells for 45 minutes a day to take a shower and do a bit of exercise in a special room at the end of each gangway. They will never get any fresh air. And when they leave their cells, they will have to be handcuffed and come out backwards through a trapdoor in the cell door.
In every cell, the clothes hooks and the ventilation grids are suicide-proof: if something too heavy is hung on them, the hooks and grids automatically fall to the ground, making it impossible for a prisoner to hang himself.
The windows of CSP II are bigger than those in CSP I, which is on the eastern side of the prison complex. The new windows have an opening 4 feet wide, whereas the older ones are only 3 feet across. Here’s what one foreman had to say during our visit: This one’s got a view of the mountains. Others won’t be so lucky; they’ll look out at the wall opposite.
This one’s got a view of the mountains. Others won’t be so lucky; they’ll look out at the wall opposite.
The total cost of building CSP II is estimated at between 162 and 208 million dollars. The prison opening has already been put back several times due to budgetary problems linked to the recession. The delays mean the wardens’ salaries don’t have to be paid yet. At the beginning of 2010, a Denver senator suggested the empty prison be sold to the private prison industry. This was greeted with outrage. To calm the tensions, just under a third of the 948 places could be filled in the course of 2010.
Find all the testimonies about high-tech prisons in the film Prison Valley.
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