Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Zavaras Hopes To Help Cut Recidivism

The Colorado Department of Corrections director told local officials Wednesday that inmate numbers are growing at a rate of “one prison a year” and more needs to be done to reduce recidivism before budgetary problems get further out of hand.

DOC director Ari Zavaras met with Fremont County representatives at West Central Mental Health in Cañon City to discuss issues ranging from inmate work crews to private prisons, as well as other areas of interest to local residents.

Among those in attendance were Cañon City Mayor Bill Jackson, Florence Mayor Cindy Cox and Fremont County Commissioner Ed Norden. Other interested attendees included local business representatives.

Upbeat and charismatic during the hour-long session, Zavaras said he is hopeful for changes within DOC to come soon, but he cautioned the rising costs of housing inmates is something that cannot be ignored by Colorado communities.

“It costs $27,500 a year to house an inmate,” he said. “Prison beds cost $125,000. Imagine what you could do with education with that kind of money.”

Zavaras said DOC recidivism — the percentage of offenders released who return to prison within three years — is at 50 percent. With costs rising and more inmates entering facilities than are leaving, Zavaras said more money will continue to be needed, causing other state necessities suffer, unless these issues are addressed.

“We have got to make an impact,” he said. “If we don’t, we’re going to be driving on dirt roads; schools will be nonexistent.”

Canon City Record

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