StopDirectFile.org has been fairly critical of corrections practices in the past. Today, we had opportunity to test some of those criticisms through a tour of the Level 4 Limon Correctional Faciltity. Entering the Correctional Facility under a darkened sky we were not optimistic that our views would change much. We were intimidated by the imposing fences and high walls. But as we reached the other side of the yard our perceptions began to change.
We were ushered quickly up some stairs and into a meeting room where we were met by Warden Angel Medina and his team. After some brief introductions Captain Ken Sokol began his presentation on the facility’s new STAR Program. Far from intimidating, the program he presented was down right impressive. Focused entirely on cognitive behavior change, the STAR program interfaces with vocational education and distance learning programs to incentivize individual responsibility and is designed to positively influence the culture of the entire facility.
While Department of Corrections employees steadfastly clung to the necessity of abandonment practices like administrative segregation, the mission statement of the Limon facility reflected a deep dedication to both security and rehabilitation.
Limon Correctional Facility serves the Colorado Department of Corrections by providing a progressive and comprehensive risk reduction program in a Level IV correctional facility to offenders who continue to, or have demonstrated behaviors that are dangerous, disruptive and/or defiant.
We are a powerful team who work collaboratively with others to interrupt an offender’s risk and threat through proactive assessment, case management, and cognitive restructuring programs that are evidenced-based.
We believe in holding offenders accountable while supporting their change….
Many organizations tout their mission in name, but fail to keep to its letter. But at the Limon Correctional Facility, the mission is sacrosanct among employees. Stopping in the yard before moving to the “incentive pod,” Warden Medina proved this point by quizzing several new corrections officers: “How do we make decisions in our facility?” The answer was almost immediate: “According to the mission, sir.”
Even prisoners who had not yet entered the STAR program understood its value and told us that, while they doubted that STAR had any real-world application or relevance to prison life, it had the potential to hasten their release. Meeting with prisoners who were in the program, the effects were more than evident. One prisoner told our group that the most valuable element in his education was “to simply stop and think.”
StopDirectFile.org has stated several times over that we support “sentence reform that provides appropriate community protections by removing offenders from society until they are no longer a threat; provides victims with a sense of justice, not revenge; and gives offenders an opportunity for rehabilitation, not cold storage.”
While StopDirectFile.org disagrees with practices like administrative segregation and sentences that offer offenders little incentive to cooperate, we wholeheartedly support both the mission and practices demonstrated at the Limon Correctional Facility. Other facilities and the entire criminal justice system should, and can, learn from Limon’s example.