Mesa County has been dealing with their meth problem successfully and let the Governor know about it when he tried to tell them about the difficulty of dealing with it. We also know that Sheriffs are worried about their daily population going up if we change sentencing schemes for drug crimes. We have to start putting treatment centers in play where people can be sentenced to directly so the prison population and the jail populations are reduced. In cases where drug crimes are treated as misdemeanors instead of felonies, bond amounts can also be reduced and people will have a better chance of getting out jail while they are awaiting trial.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Reducing the rate of repeat criminal offenders and providing alternatives to prison can help keep the state’s corrections budget in check, Gov. Bill Ritter said Friday to a group of law enforcement officers and officials from the 21st Judicial District.
Inmates’ needs have grown to 9 percent of the state’s general fund and continued growth would probably take away from the state’s higher education dollars, he said.
“We’ve said that the place we can make the most difference is in the recidivism rate,” Ritter said during his address at the Two Rivers Convention Center. “In Colorado, about 50 percent of the people released from prison return in about three years. We’re looking at that rate and thinking about things we can do.”
Earlier this year the governor signed a bill establishing a 26-member Colorado Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission. Group goals include examining Colorado’s sentencing guidelines, gathering information on the state’s prison populations, seeking alternatives to prison and making policy recommendations.
Ritter, a former trial lawyer, said his experience showed the difficulties of treating methamphetamine users.
The forum Friday gave officials an opportunity to inform Ritter about progress being made on a countywide effort against methamphetamine abuse.
Meth use has been identified as a common denominator among various crimes, with meth users often committing a number of other crimes, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said.
Hautzinger told Ritter that cooperation from a number of agencies helped create the county’s meth treatment center, the first such government-run agency in the state.
“The idea has been if you can eliminate the behavior, then you can eliminate the criminal,” he said. “It takes a lot of foresight to make a treatment facility.”
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said after the meeting he would be closely watching the state’s action on sentencing schemes.
Sentences for misdemeanor charges can include jail time, but felony charges can carry prison sentences.
Hilkey said he’s worried about the possibility of more inmates serving misdemeanor sentences, adding to an already crowded jail population.
“I think sheriffs around the state are nervous about that,” he said. “There’s talk about putting more misdemeanor cases in jail for longer.”
Some county jails, such as Mesa County Jail, make money by holding prisoners who are awaiting beds at Department of Correction facilities.