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, July 27, 2007

Denver Post Editorial - Prison Population Unacceptable

We spent today at a CLE on the Sentencing Commission. It was attended by Rep. Roger Goodman from Washington state who has been the general architect of the sentencing reform policy that has been instituted there. Atty. Phil Cherner, Judge Ken Plotz, CCJRC's Christie Donner, Adams County DA Don Quick, DCJ's Jeanne Smith, and Rep. Terrance Carroll played to a packed house.

Colorado's prison population is exploding along with the state's corrections budget.

In 1997, the average daily population for the Colorado Department of Corrections was 12,205 inmates. In 2007, the daily population is averaging 22,424 - an 84 percent increase. In the last five years alone, the prison budget has grown 35 percent.

It's time for a change.

More taxpayer dollars have been pumped into building and expanding prisons in this state under the guise of public safety, even while state policies seem geared to keeping offenders behind bars longer. Far less money has been devoted to figuring out ways to prevent people from committing crimes in the first place, to providing mental health, drug and other treatment for offenders who need it and to keep criminals from returning to prison once they're set free.

We have high hopes for a new crime commission whose mission will be to conduct an in-depth review of the state's criminal justice system and to find ways to make it better and more cost-effective without building more prisons. The commission, created by the state legislature earlier this year, will hold its first meeting in late August or early September.

One of its top priorities should be to find a way to slow the growth of the Department of Corrections, which grew by 9 percent this fiscal year from last.

"That means other important projects are being shortchanged for DOC construction," said Peter Weir, executive director of the Department of Public Safety. The commission's work is not meant to sacrifice public safety or victims rights but to find ways to be smarter with the state's overall criminal justice resources, Weir said.

It sounds like a worthy goal.

Included in the commission's work will be a comprehensive review of the state's sentencing structures. The last such review was conducted in the 1970s. One of the things we have learned in recent years is that the state's high recidivism rate is due in part to parolees committing technical offenses, such as failing to report to their parole officer on time. That should not be a reason to clog a prison cell with an inmate who costs taxpayers nearly $28,000 a year.

The population of mentally ill inmates also has grown immensely while community-based programs for the mentally ill have lost funding. The commission needs to figure out a way to increase treatment programs for mentally ill offenders in prison while expanding community-based programs that could very well serve a crime-prevention role.

And to prevent ex-convicts from ending up back behind bars, the state should embrace education and other programs that help prisoners re-enter society, train for jobs and continue treatment.

The commission's recommendations will be debated by the legislature. Then lawmakers will have to figure out a way to pay for the programs.

Slowing the growth of the prison population and making offenders productive members of society when they get out will cost far less than building more prisons. But there needs to be some political leadership to make it happen.

The Denver Post


Anonymous said...

this commission is another joke in a long line of jokes,until they ask someone who has been in prison and who has made out sucessfully ,they will fail ,just another white wash and a waste of funds as usual as an ex colorado convict and one who has made a successful return to a life away from prison ,this commission needs to ask us how to do this ,they dont know and there opinions sound good but only someone who has been there done that can really give advice on how to succed,i discharged my number on may 5th of 2005 from territorial prison in canon city and had to fight to get my daughters custody for a year and a half ,she is now fully in my custody and im a successful hard working person of society now ,who can vote for the right people to change this mess they call the corrections department...i have offerd my help or advice to this commission and to the department of corrections but i got no reply ,didnt expect one either because as long as convicts fail these people have job security why would they want advice from someone who did get out of the system when we are there bread and butter,until they ask people like us this is all a setup for failure ,when i was locked up there was not an itegration program that worked just a bunch of lies about help that was not there for an exconvict ,our succeding should be your main concern because you are about to run out of space for offenders and soon your making a class of citizen that will not be able to integrate back into society ,how will you be able to afford a mistake like this where 40to 50 %of your budget goes to corrections ....get to the reality ...you need to ask us excons who have made it ,ill include my email for anyone who really wants to ask how this is done but i dont expect any replys...bearjett1@comcast.net....

Anonymous said...

That was a very good comment. I second the fact that the DOC in Colorado is only lining their own pockets and does NOT let people out, unless they are forced.
For God's sake they charged an inmate with towel snapping and put him away, past his mandatory release date, by 4 months! These are total idiots running this insane asylum.

Anonymous said...

What percentage of the inmates are illegal immigrants?

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