Mar 5, 2010 8:37 PM by Matt Stafford

Trying to avoid the chopping block for prison funding

It's all about politics at the State Capitol, with organizations fighting for funding. Everyone's looking for places to cut, but one group says the Department of Corrections isn't that place.

"Those positions are integral to the safety of any state run prison," says Rep. Buffie McFadyen, a Democrat from Pueblo West.

McFadyen says this year more than 90 full time jobs were cut, and legislators are planning to cut more in the future. Some stories makes McFadyen fear the cuts, like the one of a man from her district whose son, Eric Autobee, was killed on duty in 2007.

A smaller staff is a scary thought to Pam Kahanic too. As a corrections officer, she was assaulted by an inmate with a knife in Limon about 3 years ago.

"Just before he let me go, he took the knife and cut my throat," Pam Kahanic, a correctional officer.

Luckily there was another person wearing a badge near by, Officer Bill Nelson came to help.

"We got lucky," Nelson says. "The next time we might not get lucky."

D.O.C. officials say they could use more staff, but they've taken measures to make sure the funding crunches don't create problems. However, it's just like balancing the checkbook at home. If you have to cut, you have to cut, but that usually brings up plenty of questions as to where the cuts come from. Similar questioning can be found when talking about state furlough days.

State employees have already taken several this fiscal year.

"That's eight, for non-essential staff," explains McFadyen, talking about the number of days taken by state employees so far. "Well what exactly is non-essential staff?"

The legislative session is the time to answer a question like that. The hope is that answers will be found, not more questions.


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