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Colorado's Correctional Capitol: Fremont County

Correctional facilities have long been an integral part of Fremont County. From the 1871 opening of Territorial Prison ("Old Max") in Cañon City to the present, prisons have provided a stable element to the area's economy and added an interesting character to its' communities.

State and federal institutions are represented in the county. Four out of five levels of federal facilities are found at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) in Florence, Colorado. Almost 2,900 inmates are incarcerated in these four prisons. The lowest security level institution is in the Prison Camp. It houses lower level felons whose crimes did not involve serious violence (no weapons used). About 60% of those incarcerated here are drug offenders.

The medium security facility within the complex is called the Federal Correctional Institution or "FCI Florence." While it is very secure, these felons usually have shorter sentences and slightly more freedom than those in the remaining two high security facilities - the United States Penitentiary (US Pen) and Administrative Maximum Penitentiary (ADX) or "Super Max."

While both these prisons operate at the highest security level, important differences exist between them. The felons incarcerated here have committed the worst possible crimes and have the longest sentences. They may be high profile criminals or high escape risks. Or, they may simply have "earned" their way into what inmates consider the toughest place possible through bad behavior.

Nine State of Colorado correctional facilities operate in Fremont County, incarcerating almost 4,700 prisoners. The oldest of these facilities is known as Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility - a medium security facility located on the west edge of Cañon City. In addition to the prison itself, CTCF has an infirmary, a hospice and a variety of Department of Corrections business offices. It is at this prison that offenders are employed making license plates. Built over 125 years ago, "Old Max" has housed some very notorious criminals - including the Colorado Cannibal, Alfred Packer, who was convicted of killing and eating his traveling companions during a cold winter trip through the mountains near Lake City over 100 years ago. It also features a very interesting prison museum.

The Colorado Women's Correctional Facility is the state's third prison for women. It sits on the east edge of Cañon City not far from the new East Cañon Correctional Complex. CWCF has grown from its original 90 beds to today's level of 275. CWCF has a number of programs meant to rehabilitate and strengthen these women's parenting, family and job skills.

The rest of the area's state correctional facilities are located on a 5600-acre parcel of land containing seven prisons and a wide variety of inmate programs and agribusiness projects. It is known as East Cañon Correctional Complex and consists of: Cañon Minimum Centers (CMC) consisting of four lower security institutions in the East Cañon Correctional Complex: Skyline Correctional Center, Four Mile Correctional Center, Pre-Release Center and Arrowhead Correctional Center.

The 1,200 inmate Fremont Correctional Facility is the state's largest and is currently undergoing expansion to be able to hold even more offenders. FCF is a medium security multi-custody institution.

Centennial Correctional Facility (CCF) is a close security facility. Close security refers to the high level of prisoner supervision involved rather than the physical security characteristics of the facility. At this security level, offenders can only work within the confines of the institution itself. For example, an on-site printing plant uses inmates to print most state income tax forms.

The Colorado State Penitentiary is a close custody, administrative segregated facility and reserved for the highest risk and most difficult to manage offenders. As with the federal government's Administrative Maximum facility, this institution has a 23 hour a day lock-down and prisoner movement is only with a double escort and restraints. CSP operates on a system whereby inmates work through incentive levels which offer more privileges for good behavior and self-discipline. The most rehabilitated prisoners even have the opportunity to move to a less restrictive facility.

More than half the jobs in Fremont County stem from the corrections industry. Yet, despite living in close proximity to these 13 different prisons, area residents and visitors soon discover the diversity of the Royal Gorge Country is what makes it such a great place to visit, live and work.