Gazette covered Allard's "Supermax" visit, ignored Salazar's visit two days earlier

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported on Republican Sen. Wayne Allard's tour of Colorado's "Supermax" prison to assess security and funding needs but ignored the fact that Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar toured the prison two days earlier for the same reason.

In an October 31 article reporting on Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard's October 30 tour of The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) Facility -- commonly known as "Supermax" -- The Gazette of Colorado Springs ignored Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar's tour of the prison two days earlier. In contrast, The Pueblo Chieftain, the Rocky Mountain News, and The Denver Post noted that both Allard and Salazar toured the Supermax facility in an effort to assess security and funding needs at the prison.

According to The Gazette, "Supermax houses inmates judged to be the most dangerous in the federal penal system. That includes inmates who have committed assaults and homicides at other federal prisons, and convicted terrorists including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski." In reporting on Allard's tour of Supermax, The Gazette also noted that state Rep. Buffie McFadyen (D-Pueblo West) said that "understaffing, the lack of a perimeter fence and a recent Department of Justice Inspector General finding that the prisons bureau has not effectively monitored the mail of terrorists incarcerated [at Supermax] create a 'trifecta of danger' in Fremont County," where the prison is located.

As the Rocky Mountain News reported on October 14, "Guards at Supermax say the nation's toughest federal prison is getting more dangerous by the day, and this week a federal arbitrator agreed with them." According to the News:

Arbitrator Joseph Lazar ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to boost safety for correctional officers at the Fremont County prison.

Corrections officers claim that safety has nose-dived at Supermax since the prison started cutting guards in March 2005. Since then, there have been two homicides, and assaults on guards have increased.

The same News article also reported that "federal and state lawmakers plan to use the arbitrator's findings to buttress their case to Congress because it validates the [prison employees] union's long-held position that more federal dollars are needed for enhanced security at Supermax."

In response to the federal arbitrator's decision regarding safety concerns at Supermax, Allard and Salazar recently toured the prison and met with local law enforcement and public officials in order to assess the prison's security hazards and their possible effect on prison staff and the surrounding community. According to an October 31 Denver Post article (an online version was published on October 30), Salazar and Allard "agree[d] that increases in staffing and security measures are needed at the prison."

According to the October 31 Gazette article, by reporter Bill Hethcock, "A federal arbitrator's criticism of staff cuts at the federal Supermax prison could spur Congress into increasing the prison's funding, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard said Monday after a tour of the ultrasecure lockup." The Gazette also reported that:

Allard said he believes the risks to Florence residents and Supermax employees are "minimal."

Even so, he wants to make sure prisons in Fremont County get their share of homeland security and other funding.

"Fremont County houses the worst of the worst, both for the state and federal government," he said. "That requires special consideration."

The Gazette, however, made no mention of Salazar's tour of Supermax, which occurred two days before Allard's -- either in its October 31 article reporting on Allard's visit or in previous editions of the paper. The Gazette also did not report on Salazar's October 26 letter to President Bush urging the president to act to ensure better security and sufficient funding for Supermax.

In contrast to the Gazette coverage, The Pueblo Chieftain reported on October 29 that "Sen. Ken Salazar visited the nation's most secure prison Saturday, then vowed to roll up his sleeves to help find a solution to understaffing and security issues." The article also noted the comments of Salazar, who said of Supermax, "We need to give all the resources necessary so that we are comfortable and confident it has the highest level of security." According to the Chieftain:

Salazar said terrorism is nothing new, pointing to bombings in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center as examples.

"It is an issue that has been here for a long time and it is not an issue that is going to go away. For us here we are part of the frontline and it is very important what we do with Supermax," Salazar said.

"We need to give all the resources necessary so that we are comfortable and confident it has the highest level of security," Salazar explained.

Similarly, October 31 articles in the News and the Post also noted the Supermax visits of both Allard and Salazar. According to the News article, "Responding to recent reports of security concerns, the Republican senator [Allard] toured Supermax, which is part of a federal four-prison complex, visiting the highest-security section that holds such inmates as 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols." The News further reported that "Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar toured the prison Saturday for the same reason."

The October 31 Post article noted that "Colorado's two U.S. senators have vowed to seek solutions to understaffing and security concerns at Supermax, home to the nation's most dangerous criminals. Sen. Wayne Allard visited the prison Monday, and Sen. Ken Salazar visited Saturday. Both agree that increases in staffing and security measures are needed at the prison, which holds such notorious criminals as al-Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui and Oklahoma bombing conspirator Terry Nichols."

According to an October 26 press release posted on Salazar's website, "United States Senator Ken Salazar, in a letter today, asked President Bush to ensure the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) fulfills its mandate to monitor the communications of high-risk inmates at the 'Supermax' federal prison in Florence, Colorado. Senator Salazar asked the President to take action to 1) ensure that the BOP addresses security failures; 2) conduct a prompt review of all security procedures and staffing needs at BOP facilities; and 3) provide additional funds for staffing in the Fiscal Year 2008 budget."

From the October 31 The Gazette of Colorado Springs article by Bill Hethcock, "Allard: Criticism of staff cuts may help Supermax funding":

A federal arbitrator's criticism of staff cuts at the federal Supermax prison could spur Congress into increasing the prison's funding, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard said Monday after a tour of the ultrasecure lockup.

Allard, a Colorado Republican, said his office and the Bureau of Prisons are evaluating a ruling released this month that sided with the union representing officers at Supermax.

The arbitrator found that staff cuts had made Supermax a more dangerous place for staff.

"Now we have some actual facts that we can deal with," Allard said. "That will strengthen our case."

[...]

Allard said he believes the risks to Florence residents and Supermax employees are "minimal."

Even so, he wants to make sure prisons in Fremont County get their share of homeland security and other funding.

"Fremont County houses the worst of the worst, both for the state and federal government," he said. "That requires special consideration."

The federal arbitrator's opinion found the union provided convincing evidence that shifts designated as critical were left unfilled, housing units were unsupervised for entire shifts and cells weren't being regularly searched. The arbitrator also found staff were being assaulted and threatened by inmates angry that they weren't getting their one hour of recreation per day.

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