News and Gazette again omit Salazar's advocacy for "Supermax" improvements

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In reporting on Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard's meeting with the U.S. attorney general to discuss funding for increased security at the "Supermax" prison facility, the Rocky Mountain News and The Gazette of Colorado Springs again failed to note that Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar has pushed for similar improvements at the penitentiary.

Recent articles in the Rocky Mountain News and The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard's meeting with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss funding for increased security at The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) Facility -- commonly known as "Supermax" -- but again omitted any mention of Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar's advocacy for improved security at the Florence, Colorado, facility.

According to a November 15 article posted on the News' website, "U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., met today with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to seek support in adding $12 million to the Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill to fund a perimeter fence at Supermax in Florence." The News further reported:

A Justice Department inspector general's report in September criticized the prison for a number of shortcomings, including a lack of security and failure to monitor the mail.

[...]

Allard conducted a tour of the facility on Oct. 30 and met with local law enforcement, prison guards and community officials to hear their concerns regarding prison operations.

He then met last Thursday with Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley G. Lappin to explain the issues raised in the meeting.

"I have taken the concerns raised to me during my visit to Supermax and the meeting with Florence citizens back to Washington and have brought them directly to the attention of the director of the Bureau of Prisons and to the attorney general," said Allard.

However, the News failed to note that Salazar toured the Supermax facility on October 28, and, according to The Pueblo Chieftain, "heard from State Rep. Buffie McFadyen [D-Pueblo West], union officials and local law enforcement and emergency personnel about their concerns relating to federal prison security." Furthermore, the News neglected to report that Salazar also supports building a perimeter fence at Supermax; in an October 26 letter to President Bush, Salazar wrote, "I believe that it is imperative to adequately fund the hardening of the perimeter and a centralized tower. Right now, the only fence that surrounds the four facilities in the Florence complex is a cow fence."

Similarly, The Gazette (print edition subscription only) published an Associated Press article on November 16 that stated, "Allard, R-Colo., wants $12 million appropriated for another perimeter fence designed to keep terrorists or other potential attackers away from the prison." The Gazette, like the News, did not mention Salazar's advocacy for building a perimeter fence or his general support for funding improved security at Supermax. The Gazette also noted that "[a]n arbitrator ruled this year that staffing levels had fallen so low that job hazards had increased for officers. Allard has said the prison has hired 11 new guards since August and seven more are expected to be hired by the end of November."

In contrast to the News and The Gazette articles on Allard's meeting with Gonzales, the Chieftain and The Denver Post (print edition subscription only) both noted Salazar's role in pushing for security improvements at Supermax. According to the Post, "Prison workers have long complained of understaffing at Supermax, and both Allard and Sen. Ken Salazar have asked federal officials for improvements." And as the Chieftain reported, "A month ago, an inspector general's report on the prison said it was so short-staffed that the mail and telephone conversations of convicted terrorists were not being monitored. Allard and Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., both toured the prison in the wake of that report and Allard met with Harvey Lappin, director of the federal prison system, on Nov. 9."

As Colorado Media Matters has noted (here and here), several Colorado news outlets -- including the News and The Gazette -- have reported on Allard's advocacy for improved security at Supermax while neglecting to mention Salazar's activity in that regard.

From the November 15 News article, "Allard lobbies for Supermax funding":

U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., met today with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to seek support in adding $12 million to the Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill to fund a perimeter fence at Supermax in Florence.

Allard's office said that during the meeting, Gonzalez pledged to work with Allard to address the funding issue for the fence.

[...]

A Justice Department inspector general's report in September criticized the prison for a number of shortcomings, including a lack of security and failure to monitor the mail.

"Today's meeting was extremely productive," said Allard. "Attorney General Gonzales assured me that the mail deficiencies raised in the inspector general's report are being addressed, and he agreed to discuss the need for a perimeter fence with the Bureau of Prisons director and follow up with me on the potential avenues to funding the fence."

Allard conducted a tour of the facility on Oct. 30 and met with local law enforcement, prison guards and community officials to hear their concerns regarding prison operations.

He then met last Thursday with Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley G. Lappin to explain the issues raised in the meeting.

"I have taken the concerns raised to me during my visit to Supermax and the meeting with Florence citizens back to Washington and have brought them directly to the attention of the director of the Bureau of Prisons and to the attorney general," said Allard.

From the November 16 Gazette "Briefly Colorado" item, "3rd Supermax fence on agenda":

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has agreed to talk to federal prison officials about whether a third fence is needed around the ultrahigh-security Supermax prison in Florence, Sen. Wayne Allard said Wednesday.

Allard, R-Colo., wants $12 million appropriated for another perimeter fence designed to keep terrorists or other potential attackers away from the prison. The two existing fences are designed to keep inmates in.

The prison holds inmates considered the most dangerous in the nation, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

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