Skyline Correctional Center is a facility designed to rehabilitate inmates near the end of their sentences. The "Beacon" program could be closed indefinitely after the Colorado Department of Corrections proposed moving the program to another facility.
DOC is planning to move the program to Centennial Correctional Facility, which is a level five or maximum security prison. Skyline is currently only a level-one security prison.
Former Skyline inmates say the program is a game-changer and that it can't survive at Centennial.
"The program, it could exist at name at another facility, but it would not be what it's ever intended to be," said Trevor Jones, a former Skyline inmate.
The Beacon is a pilot program, Jones says it allows residents to gain skills to reintegrate into society after they've proven themselves in higher-level correctional facilities. Jones says the biggest challenge the move would face is adapting a program meant for lower security prisons to the culture of a maximum security facility like Centennial.
"If you try to make a program like that work in another facility, it's just going to die of a thousand cuts," said Jones.
The reason for the move is budget cuts at the DOC. State documents show a 2.49% decrease in the number of inmates in the next fiscal year. The DOC plans to adjust by reducing the amount of beds at Skyline by 326. The Beacon program makes up 126 of those beds and in addition to Skyline's cuts, the Buena Vista Correctional Complex will be down 200 beds.
"They're trying to say it's a budget thing, that they need money," said Mike Montoya, a former Skyline inmate. "I think the money that they will save by cutting down on the recidivism rate would be more beneficial than shutting it down and trying to move it somewhere else.”
Montoya spent 30 years in prison, after his involvement at age 16 in a homicide. Montoya has since taken on a mentorship role at Skyline, which he credits with helping him adjust to life after prison.
"It makes you feel like you're human when everybody around you treats you like like you're a regular person again, and you're not just a number," said Montoya.
The changes are set to occur by April 1, 2024.
However, A Change.org petition has now garnered more than a thousand signatures to protest the DOC's proposed cut.