Chico residents thrilled by benefits of new jail

Letter from J.T. Mosier

Prisons – October 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

Chico residents thrilled by benefits of new jail


Congratulations, dear friends and neighbors in Chaffee County, on being selected to receive a state-of-the-art jail tailored to cash in on the boom in bed-and-breakfast facilities for convicts in transit.

The State of Colorado is so certain of the need for a bigger jail in Chaffee County that it has anted up $400,000 of your money just for planning; the first such grant ever awarded (Mountain Mail, Aug. 5, 1997).

“We’re in the corridor…” is the phrase being shared by insiders; perhaps realizing anew the historical truth that regardless of the commodity being shipped to or through Colorado, topography demands that a sizable portion follow the Arkansas River canyon.

Today, with America leading every other nation in the per-capita imprisonment of its own citizens, and financial analysts predicting a rise of some 40% in private prison stocks in the coming year, the vision of Sheriff Ron Bergmann, the county commissioners, and Ron Roland of the prison-building Newstrom-Davis company — that vision should be justly rewarded on election day.

I know we’re certainly relieved here at Chico Flats to consider the likelihood of this boost to the regional economy.

Aunt Kate has given up teaching stitchery. She’s betting her egg money with experts who predict that a prison population which has tripled within the past 20 years (to more than 1.6 million), will swell within the next 10 years to at least 5 million people behind bars.

Aunt Kate is even now launching on the Internet a fashion and cultural statement in the form of a one-size-fits-all reversible jump suit — one side the popular shade known regionally as Buena Vista blaze orange, the other, a politically correct shade of correctional officer gray, with just a hint of traditional blue.

Kate hopes to time the promotion of this, “the last correctional uniform you’ll ever need,” to a point in the near future when one-half of all Americans will have served time behind bars. I think she may have a fortune in the making.

And don’t despair, Chaffee County residents, should your new jail stumble at the polls in the headlong rush of Colorado counties to sell jail space to each other. Your leaders could adopt the “Adopt-a-Jail” program launched now in Saguache County. Undaunted by the defeat of a bigger jail by the voters last November, Saguache County Commissioner Rod Hines has started Adopt-a-Jail and promises that when enough communities have given “grants,” volunteers can begin building the jail.

J.T. Mosier Center

(A former Salidan, now writing from Saguache County, and a former prison guard, journalist, criminal-defense investigator, and builder.)