After a security checkpoint the gravel road winds up the hill
past several prisons until visitors come upon a sign that reads
Dangerous Animals: Do Not Approach.
The location is a brand new bucking bull training facility being
used by the ABBI for its Back Seat Buckers program and it's housed
on property owned by the Colorado Department of Corrections. The
bull pen is located in the same complex as seven prisons--CSB 1,
CSB 2, Centennial, Arrowhead, Four Mile, Skyline and
Freemont--along with a dairy farm and 500 acres of crops, which is
According to Jim Heaston, the Agriculture Business Manager for
the Colorado Corrections Industries, they do not receive any
general funds to operate the various businesses that are manned by
minimum and minimum restricted inmates.
"We're not costing the taxpayers any money," Heaston said. "We
actually save the taxpayers money because we generate money.
"Whatever's left at the end of the year goes into the general
fund. When we've got the inmates out working they don't have to
hire an officer or a staff member to be able to watch him inside
the facility, so that cuts down on the personal services that the
Department of Corrections needs due to the fact that we're working
them, teaching them a trade and keeping them busy throughout the
The inmates working with the ABBI are the same inmates who would
work to build fences, work the dairy cows, work in the heavy
equipment program or work as firefighters. "They're there paying
their debt to society," Heaston said.
Each morning they're transported from their respective prison to
"We're not costing the taxpayers any money,"
Heaston said. "We actually save the taxpayers money because we
The idea behind the work programs is as much about teaching them
a life skill as it is generating funds for the state-run prison
"That's our goal," Heaston said. "To teach them a trade, life
skills. Get them used to working. We bring them out every day and
put them to work. That in turn teaches them a skill."
According to Heaston, the program has to pay for all its own raw
materials and equipment along with any other expenses related to
Back Seat Buckers is described as a "perfect fit" for the
Heaston said the ABBI provides the product--everything from the
raw materials to build the pens to the 100 two-year old futurity
bulls being used--and in return the CCI provides the manpower to
"All the guys who work there, they love it," Heaston said. "We
have them lined up. It's one of the programs that they would all
come and work for us--as many of them as we wanted."
Right now they're only using four inmates to build the bull pen
and the chutes, but as each "rolls out" or is released, a new
inmate is brought over to work on the project. Some of them are
known as "short timers" and have a mandatory release date within 28
days, while Heaston said he prefers to involve inmates who have
three or four years remaining when it comes to long term projects
like the Back Seat Buckers.
Hundreds of other low-risk inmates milk 900 cows three times a
day, 1,100 goats twice a day and 81 newly acquired water buffalos,
which Heaston said are used to make "the best mozzarella cheese you
can make." The dairy facility is operated by 68 inmates working in
three shifts that continuously work 24 hours a day.
And that's not all.
They have a joint venture with a wild horse program and
currently have 2,300 mustangs with a capacity for 3,000 wild
horses. They also farm 500 acres of crops right at the Canon City
complex. According to Heaston, they raise about 12,000 tons of corn
a year and then in the fall use 125 acres to raise triticeae.
The corn and the triticeae is chopped up for silage and used to
feed the dairy cows.
The bucking bull facility is located near the dairy facility,
which is where all the feed is kept, so the inmates are in charge
of feeding the bulls every day and check on them. Joe Baumgartner,
Kent Cox and Dean Wilson rotate spending time in Colorado actually
working with the bulls and chute training them.
At this point, the inmates do not work directly with the bucking
bulls, but some have expressed an interest in learning.
"They will pay really close attention to anything (those) guys
do," Heaston said. "They always listen and they want to learn about
(those) animals. … They want to learn because when they get out,
who knows, they might want to get into it."
If any issues arise they contact Kaycee Simpson, who is the
Vice-President of the ABBI.
This week the bulls were hauled to Oklahoma, where they'll be
housed for roughly a month. They will be competing in Tulsa and
again in Thackerville before being hauled to Springfield, Mo., for
the fourth and final regular-season event and then out to Las Vegas
for the Finals.
Heaston said he others from the prison system, including his
supervisor Steve Smith, had visited with Simpson beforehand and had
a good idea of not only what to expect, but what was expected of
"It's gone according to plan pretty well," Heaston said, "very
well. I mean, they're a great bunch of people to work with. They're
willing to do anything we need and we're willing to do anything for
The ABBI is already selling auction spots for next year's Back
Seat Buckers. Ross Coleman will be at a booth located on the
concourse of the BFTS events beginning in Tulsa.
The bulls will again be housed at the prison.
"Any project we go into like this," Heaston said, "we go into it
long term and, I think, this is going to be a good one. They seem
to be satisfied and we're very satisfied."
According to Heaston, anything classified over a Minimum R will
be surrounded by two fences. CSB 1 and the recently completed CSB 2
are maximum security prisons. However, the much-talked about
Supermax facility, which houses the Unabomber and other well-known
inmates, is a federal prison that is located five miles away on the
other side of Florence.
Heaston agreed that by the time the inmates are working with CCI
they're on the path to eventually being released and want to make
the right decisions in their life, but some need guidance and
Heaston is willing "to sit and visit about it. You just have to
steer them down the right road and they get to finding out they can
do the right thing. If they get to hanging with the wrong crowd
it's just like anything else, you're going to do the wrong
For more information regarding the Back Seat Buckers program and
to buy an auction spot for next year's futurity bulls, log onto www.backseatbuckers.com
or call (719) 242-2747.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.