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, November 02, 2007

Thinking Outside The Cage??? We'll See.....

The proposition below at least begins to create possible solutions for people who get out of prison and immediately end up in crisis situations and summarily have no place to turn. Also, by limiting growth in the prison budget we can stop draining the funds out of education which, of course, is the single most effective deterrent to keep people from getting involved in the system in the first place.

Gov. Bill Ritter's $18 billion budget proposal includes the lowest increase for prisons in years, a stark contrast to his predecessor's parting financial plan.

Instead of emphasizing prison beds, the governor's proposal released Thursday would pump $5.9 million into programs aimed at reducing recidivism.

Ritter said substance-abuse, mental-health and vocational programs for adults and youth could save $17 million in prison costs during the next five years. Republicans, though, countered that the former district attorney is being "irresponsible" and lax about public safety.

Ritter's first spending plan - a $927.8 million increase over this year's budget - also includes a 25 percent general-fund boost for green initiatives, including a new $2 million solar-power rebate program.

It calls for $1.8 million to help cut in half the achievement gap between white students and their counterparts, and adds $2.3 million to restore the state veterans trust fund for nursing homes and transportation to medical appointments.

Ritter's proposal, for the fiscal year that will begin July 1, is now with the legislature's Joint Budget Committee, which will hold hearings this fall before lawmakers approve a budget next spring.

The governor is proposing to raise corrections spending by $38 million, or 6 percent. Gov. Bill Owens' eighth and final budget last year focused on prisons and roads, including a $51 million, or 8.7 percent, increase for corrections.

The former governor warned then that the cost of not incarcerating criminals is high for victims, insurance companies and prosecutors.

"As a former DA, I'm sure Bill Ritter will be a strong voice for public safety," Owens said a year ago.

On Thursday, Ritter proposed spending an additional $8.6 million for prison population growth next year - but he said his package of 12 anti-recidivism initiatives would cut down on future prison beds, which cost the state $28,783 annually for each inmate.

"It is a place where I really believe you can spend money and, at the end of the day, save money," he said.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, praised the Democratic governor for planning ahead instead of patching the budget with "baling wire and duct tape."

Republicans voiced a different view.

"It's irresponsible to think that we can provide for the safety of citizens without properly funding prison beds," said Assistant House Minority Leader David Balmer of Centennial.

Republicans also criticized Ritter for proposing to fund 74 jobs in workforce training centers instead of spending more to hire workers in driver's license offices.

State budget director Todd Saliman said the state had to take over funding the 74 positions after the federal government stopped doing so. He also pointed out that state driver's license offices began hiring 65 new workers this summer.

GOP leaders also questioned why Ritter did not provide details of how he wants to spend the $114 million generated by his property tax freeze that prevented local school mill levies from dropping.

"The governor is being coy about how he intends to spend this money because, truthfully, it really doesn't just go to K-12 education," Balmer said.

Ritter said the legislature's school-funding plan produced early next year would make clear how that new money is to be used. Also, he said the state will have about $40 million next year to spend on other programs because local school districts will kick in more property taxes for K-12 education.

The governor's proposal includes a $59.5 million increase for higher education. That's an 8 percent increase, exceeding the 6 percent spending cap imposed on total general-fund spending by the state constitution.

To increase one department's general-fund spending by more than 6 percent, lawmakers must cut the growth in spending in other departments.

Without the budget-reform Referendum C, the general fund proposed budget would have been about $750 million less.

Jennifer Brown: 303-954-1593 or jenbrown@denverpost.com

Percent Department Request change

Education $3.21 billion 5.2

Corrections $674.5 million 6.0

Health Care Policy & Financing $1.52 billion 7.2

Higher Education $805.7 million 8.0

Human Services $670.9 million 4.5

Military and Veterans Affairs $6.1 million 10.6

Judicial $316.2 million 6.5

The Denver Post