By EVVA PARSONS, ETHAN GREENBERG, & MALONE DEYOUNG
This article serves as an introduction to a forthcoming series of articles written by inmates at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. The articles stem from weekly programming that focuses on current events in conjunction with writing and discussion skills. Participants respond to a prompt related to the article of the week, which can range from domestic policy issues to topics of international relations.
This program is one of three at the CJC currently run by CC students. There are an additional four Colorado College Prison Project programs pending approval. The CC Prison Project is a student organization started in 2014 that began programming in the CJC in the spring of 2017. While the CC Prison Project only recently began volunteering, programs have been offered by Colorado Springs community members for many years.
Through contact between the CC and Colorado Spring’s communities, this series aims to broaden the perception that CC students may have of incarceration issues and provide a medium for incarcerated writers. According to the Prison Project mission statement, “Prison Project is a student group dedicated to reforming the incarceration system. We believe that we must not only educate ourselves about incarceration, but also apply that knowledge by working towards concrete change in our immediate community.”
On campus, the Prison Project screens films, organizes speakers, and hosts a weekly reading group. The Prison Project is also involved at a local halfway-house and runs a reading group at a local juvenile facility in addition to its work at the CJC.
The CJC houses individuals arrested on misdemeanor and felony charges by all law enforcement agencies in El Paso County. While the CJC population fluctuates daily, it hovers around 1,500 inmates. The people housed at CJC are either pre-trial or being sentenced to the El Paso County Jail. According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the overall average length of stay for inmates incarcerated in the CJC is 27 days. Over 50 percent of the population in CJC is sentenced on or facing felony charges.
The CJC has minimum, medium, and maximum security wards, though programming is primarily offered to those in minimum and medium wards.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office must approve all of the written material prior to publication. The Sheriff’s Office also requires the removal of authors’ last names due to confidentiality and security issues. The opinions expressed in the forthcoming articles do not necessarily represent the views of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office nor the views of Colorado College or the Colorado College Prison Project.