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Where Colorado Felony Inmate’s Serve Their Time – Understanding Security Levels in the Colorado Department of Corrections

By Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer for the Defense of Colorado Felonys – H. Michael Steinberg

The courts may only sentence to the DOC offenders who have been convicted of a felony offense. Individuals convicted of misdemeanors may not be sentenced to the DOC.

Custody Classification Levels

All offenders are admitted to the DOC through the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, a secure facility that handles inmates of all custody levels. During intake, offenders are given an assessment that is used to determine their custody classification. The classification instrument measures factors such as history of violence, severity of current and prior convictions, substance abuse, stability, and parole eligibility date. Depending on the score in each of these areas, an inmate may be classified according to one of the five custody levels.

DRDC is the first stop for all offenders sentenced to the Department of Corrections. The facility is located on Smith Road, just east of the Denver County Jail. Staff at the 480 bed maximum security facility process, test, and classify offenders entering the system, prior to their placement at one of the Department’s permanent facilities. Offenders are given a complete diagnostic evaluation including medical, dental, mental health assessment, and personal needs assessments, as well as academic and vocational testing, initial classification, and a custody level recommendation. The facility also houses a 36 bed Infirmar

Inmate Custody Classification Levels

Administrative Segregation

For offenders who require maximum security because they:

• have behaved in ways that demonstrate they cannot function appropriately in

a less secure general population setting; and/or

• are extremely difficult to manage in a general population setting.


For offenders convicted of serious violent crimes and who:

• require close supervision;

• exhibit a high degree of institutional adjustment problems;

• are a high escape risk; and/or

• need close supervision based on their parole eligibility date.


For offenders convicted of violent and non-violent offenses and who:

• need a moderate level of supervision;

• exhibit moderate institutional adjustment problems;

• are a low to moderate escape risk; and/or

• have high medical or mental health needs.


For offenders convicted of non-violent offenses and who:

• exhibit very low to no institutional adjustment problems;

• are a low escape risk;

• have a parole eligibility date of less than five years; and

• have low to moderate medical and mental health needs.


For offenders convicted of non-violent offenses and who:

• exhibit no institutional adjustment problems;

• are not an escape risk;

• have a parole eligibility date of less than three years; and

• have minimal or no medical or mental health needs

Facility Security Levels

An offender’s custody classification determines his or her facility placement. The DOC places

inmates according to their assessed custody level in an appropriate facility based on its security level.

Prior to May 24, 2000, an inmate was placed in a facility according to his or her assessed classification level, which matched the facility’s custody classification level. After May 24, 2000, each facility was designated a security level that was defined in statute.

The following paragraphs describe the main external and internal measures differentiating the five security levels of prison facilities in Colorado, from the highest to lowest levels.

Correctional Facility Security Levels – External Measures Internal Measures

Level V

• Double perimeter fencing with razor wire and detection devices

• Towers or stun-lethal fencing

• Continuous patrol of perimeter

• Sally ports (double gates to closely monitor the movement to and from a restricted area)

• Housing in cells with bars on all openings and with sally-port doors to outside operated by a control center

• Remote controlled sliding and lockable cell doors

Level IV

• Double perimeter fencing and/or razor wire with detection devices

• Towers

• Continuous patrol of perimeter

• Housing in cells with bars on all openings

• Remote controlled hinged or sliding cell doors that are lockable from the control area

Level III

• Wall and/or double perimeter fencing with razor wire and detection devices

• Towers

• Continuous patrol of perimeter

• Housing in cells, rooms, or dormitories with bars on window openings

• Hinged lockable cell doors

Level II

• Designated boundaries with single or double perimeter fencing

• Periodic patrol of perimeter

• Housing in modular units, cells, or dormitories

• Hinged cell doors with lockable exterior doors

Level I

• Designated boundaries

• Housing in individual rooms or dormitories

• Non-security cell doors with lockable exterior doors


Colorado Corrections Facilities and The Security Levels


Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility – Level III

Buena Vista Correctional Complex – Level III

Fremont Correctional Facility – Level III

Delta Correctional Center – Level I

Skyline Correctional Center – Level I

Colorado Women’s Correctional – Facility Level V

Colorado Correctional Center – Level I

Rifle Correctional Center – Level I

Centennial Correctional Facility – Level IV

Four Mile Correctional Center – Level II

Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility – Level III

Arrowhead Correctional Center – Level II

Colorado Correctional Alternative Program – Level I

Limon Correctional Facility – Level IV

Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center – Level V

Colorado State Penitentiary – Level V

Pueblo Minimum Center – Level II

Youthful Offender System – Adult Males – Level II

San Carlos Correctional Facility – Level V

Denver Women’s Correctional Facility – Level V

Sterling Correctional Facility – Level V

Ft. Lyon Correctional Facility – Level III

Trinidad Correctional Facility – Level II

Other Articles of Interest:

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H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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