Lettie Hellman

  • Lettie Hellman

    Cindy Wehling

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Colorado's prison slayer.

Lettie Hellman is a native of Colorado's Western Slope. Since the mid-1980s she has promoted prisons for Delta County. Her husband, Bill, also a proponent of prisons, runs an auto dealership in the town of Delta, population 4,000.

"I'm not crazy about seeing a great amount of growth here, but we need two or three good, solid industries. The coal industry doesn't provide as many jobs as it used to. Prison jobs can help the situation; they are recession-proof.

"If we had an industry that offered the same kind of longevity (and) that was clean like prisons, I would be the first one in line. Our problem is that businesses are not knocking on our door to come here, and every county is going after them. We just don't have a lot of the amenities that you need to attract some of the high-tech kinds of businesses. It's unfortunate, but it's a fact of life.

"People who live in the area of prisons understand them. They realize they're safer there than anywhere else. When you have multiple prisons, your area is full of law enforcement and the crime rate is low.

"I truly wouldn't care if there was a prison across the street from my house. I have a brother who lives in Springfield, Mo., directly across from a federal prison. It's a family neighborhood. Small children. When I visit him I go to sleep there and don't give it a second thought.

"The opponents of prisons feed off the emotionalism of the subject without looking at the facts. Prisons aren't the boogeyman to me. We haven't had one person harmed by the prison. You can't say that about agriculture.

"Those who oppose prisons should spend their energy on changing society and the moral situation that make prisons necessary. That would be a benefit to us all. People need to go out there to the (Delta County Correctional) Facility and see what it is like before they criticize it. It's superbly managed; the inmates provide the county with millions of dollars of labor.

"If someone has all the facts and they are still opposed to prisons ... well, God bless them."

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