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Colorado's Correctional Capitol: Fremont County

Correctional facilities have long been an integral part of Fremont County. From the 1871 opening of Territorial Prison ("Old Max") in Cañon City to the present, prisons have provided a stable element to the area's economy and added an interesting character to its' communities.

State and federal institutions are represented in the county. Four out of five levels of federal facilities are found at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) in Florence, Colorado. Over 2,300 inmates are incarcerated in these four prisons. The lowest security level institution is in the Prison Camp. It houses lower level felons whose crimes did not involve serious violence (no weapons used). About 60% of those incarcerated here are drug offenders.

The medium security facility within the complex is called the Federal Correctional Institution or "FCI Florence." While it is very secure, these felons usually have shorter sentences and slightly more freedom than those in the remaining two high security facilities - the United States Penitentiary (USP) and Administrative Maximum Penitentiary (ADX) or "Super Max."

While both these prisons operate at the highest security level, important differences exist between them. The felons incarcerated here have committed the worst possible crimes and have the longest sentences. They may be high profile criminals or high escape risks. Or, they may simply have "earned" their way into what inmates consider the toughest place possible through bad behavior.

Six Colorado Department of Corrections facilities operate in Fremont County, currently incarcerating about 5,100 prisoners. The oldest of these facilities is known as Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility - a medium security facility located on the west edge of Cañon City. The facility has a unique mission in housing special needs offenders. CTCF maintains the largest medical infirmary in the state prison system and provides programs and services for geriatric inmates, offenders with limited mobility, hearing impaired, transgender, developmentally disabled, and offenders at high risk for COVID-19. The facility is also renovating a housing unit to provide sex offender treatment. It is at this prison that offenders are employed making license plates. Opened in 1871, "Old Max" has housed some very notorious criminals - including the Colorado Cannibal, Alferd Packer, who was convicted of killing and eating his traveling companions during a cold winter trip through the mountains near Lake City over 100 years ago. It also features a very interesting prison museum, open to the public.

The rest of the state correctional facilities in the area are located on a 5600-acre parcel of land containing five prisons and a wide variety of inmate programs and agribusiness projects. This is known as East Cañon Correctional Complex. This complex consists of the Cañon Minimum Centers consisting of Levels I & II lower security institutions (Four Mile Correctional Center, Arrowhead Correctional Center, and Skyline Correctional Center which has recently closed), Fremont Correctional Facility, and Centennial Correctional Facility.

The 1,700+ inmate Fremont Correctional Facility is one of the state's largest and is a Level III, medium security, multi-custody institution.

Centennial Correctional Facility (CCF) is a Level V facility that contains two distinct units, CCF North and CCF South, both designed to manage a close custody population within the prison system. CCF South is a relatively new facility, which was partially opened in September 2010 when one of its three towers (Tower I) was put into operation.

The Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) opened in 1993 to serve as the state’s primary facility for housing close custody offenders. The facility features advanced security systems, appropriate for the management and control of offenders assessed as potentially violent and dangerous and houses the state’s execution chamber.

Over 1,600 jobs in Fremont County stem directly from the Department of Corrections and many more in related industries. Yet, despite living in close proximity to these 10 different prisons, area residents and visitors soon discover the diversity of the Royal Gorge Country is what makes it such a great place to visit, live and work.