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After studying photojournalism at the University of Colorado, Stroomer went to work as a photographer for a newspaper in Vail, Colorado. He documented the Colorado Correctional Alternative Program (CCAP) in Summer 2008 as a personal project.
The CCAP, a boot camp style program, was the only program of its kind in Colorado and one of very few across the States. The three-month camp, which opened in 1991, offered physical & mental challenges, a GED program and substance-abuse treatment. About 90% of the offenders had drug or alcohol abuse problems
In March 2010, as part of Colorado State budget cuts, the boot camp was closed down. “There’s no political consequence in making a decision like that,” says Stroomer. The photographer observed change and believed it was a worthy program. Upon hearing news of the closure, Stroomer wrote, “I held a high opinion of the program, its staff, and its role in the lives of inmate participants after observing it over a three-month period in 2008. I am sorry to see it go.”
Admittedly, the boot camp program was more costly than simply warehousing prisoners. And costs were rising; from $78/day to $109/day per inmate in 2009 alone. Also unhelpful were the gradually increasing year-on-year recidivism rates among CCAP graduates. The Denver Post, in a rather damning summary, reports:
51% of the 155 inmates released from prison through boot camp in fiscal year 2007 have already returned to prison. The 51% recidivism rate of these nonviolent offenders was only 2% points better than the record of inmates convicted of crimes such as robbery and murder.
Another huge problem for CCAP – which only took non-violent first-time offenders – was the statewide rising proportion of inmates classified as “high security” compared to when CCAP opened in the early nineties. Indeed, it is telling that as the CCAP boot camp was being shuttered as another new maximum security prison was under construction in Canon City.
It should always be noted that the most inventive and progressive programs are more expensive than those which simply lock people up without rehabilitation efforts.
Ari Zavaras, Colorado Department of Corrections executive director, rolled out the stats to support the decision. I suspect negatively-spun statistics surface about any particular service whenever a state department is about to bin it. The closure of CCAP boot camp is forecast to save $1million in operating costs per year and relocate 33 full-time staff.
The Denver Post reports on the unexpected, welcome and only half-explained trend of decreasing prison populations in Colorado (2009: 23,186 – 2010: 22,127).
Why the surprise? Shouldn’t one expect a drop in prison population if the state ceases to pursue (due to budgetary constraint) harsh, punitive legislation of boom years? After the postponement of insane policy, we should be looking how to reverse the damage and plummet the figures further. In 1981, Colorado had fewer than 3,000 prisoners. That’s the baseline to focus on.