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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ritter To Cut Prison Costs By $380 Million

Gov. Bill Ritter used a joint meeting with the 27-member Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice on Thursday to announce his plan to save $380 million in skyrocketing prison costs over the next five years.

His proposed 2009-10 crime prevention and recidivism package, which carries a one-year price tag of $10.6 million, is part of his fiscal year 2009-10 budget proposal. It will be submitted this weekend to the legislature's Joint Budget Committee.

Done right, the governor said, Colorado could eliminate the planned 2,061-bed expansion of the Trinidad Correctional Facility. Its projected cost, $336 million, is included in the governor's projected savings.

The governor's plan would emphasize prevention services for youth, non-prison programs for non-violent offenders, substance-abuse treatment and offender education.

Ritter also praised the crime panel, which, in turn, presented Ritter with its own 10 months' of work embodied in a preliminary set of 66 recommendations on how to cut costs. The final report is expected in December.

Ritter, a former prosecutor, assured the panel that this was a cooperative effort and details of the two plans could mesh. His own package "doesn't take the place of your work ... this is a dynamic conversation," Ritter told the gathering of more than 100 people, including commission members, corrections experts and elected officials.

The key to reducing costs, Ritter said, is reducing recidivism — repeat offenders. The bad news is that adult recidivism increased from 50 to 53 percent in roughly the last three years. Ritter said that reducing recidivism would cost money at first, but ultimately save more.

"It's important for us to get this right," he said. In a stormy economy, when taxpayers are stressed and revenue numbers are difficult to project, it's important "to be prudent, frugal and responsible with taxpayer money."

Ritter acknowledged that for taxpayers and the public, "there's a great deal of nervousness when people in public office begin talking about public safety issues ... you have to understand public safety will remain the paramount concern."

Ritter also gave some opinions on the commission's preliminary recommendations, saying, "I affirm the direction you've taken," and singled out several reforms he agreed with.

The area of technical violations needs reform, he said, noting that many felons return to prison not because they commit new crimes but because they technically violate their probation. He agreed such breaches could be dealt, for example, with jail days, "not always the sledgehammer of a prison bed."

He agreed there should be a comprehensive review of the "overworked" parole system.

He also cited behavioral issues as a needed reform, given that 78 percent of inmates have substance abuse problems and nearly 29 percent have mental health issues.

He also liked the idea of offering inmates opportunities for higher education, subject to "fiscal realities."

He was far less enthusiastic about the commission's recommendation to increase "earned time," which would let inmates out early who had earned it in some way, such as by demonstrating good behavior or reaching an educational goal.

From his experience as a prosecutor, Ritter said, he knew that idea was controversial. "The devil will absolutely be in the details and we'll have to wait for those devils — those details — to emerge," Ritter said, to laughter.

Rocky Mountain News


Anonymous said...

All of what he said I totally agree with. The commission did a great job, despite some of it's ties to the prison industrial complex.

To sentence a prisoner to serve another 6 months in prison for snapping a dish towel is another example of a "technical violation" that has to be addressed by the Parole Board.
This administration can cut costs significantly by separating the major drug dealers and violent criminals from the drug users and mental cases, putting the latter into less expensive to operate program driven facilities.

One key recommendation from the commission is to get identification for parolees. The Governor vetoed a bill on DMV identification saying that he wanted more discretion. However, his two departments, Corrections and Revenue are NOT cooperating. If a parolee has an identification, they can get a job. If they do not have one, they are more likely to go back to prison.mpc

Anonymous said...

Correction. DOC Inmate services has a deal with DMV about identification that started this summer.
DMV has a mobile unit that they send out to the prisons. It will remain to be seen if this program will be cut by this administration.mpc

Anonymous said...

The CCJJC has individuals on the board that are NOT the least bit concerned about recidivism or rehabilitation. I can understand why Gov. Ritter laughed.

Age 20.
No priors.
An exceptional record in DOC for over 2 years.
A GED at age 17.
No history of violence.

You have a 'person' in the re-entry that is incapable of critical thinking and an exaggerated opinion of himself.

Even with all of the above mentioned factors, including crucial information not delivered to the (defense) court pertaining to the defendant, there is pure bias and malice. This 'person' has absolutely NO desire to apply rational application and provide a constructive path for a youthful person. Tyrannical. This should be news for the community. Reasonable reduction of the CDOC population is not in the best interest of this holier-than-thou.

CCJJC. At this point, not to be trusted. Wolf in sheep's clothing. Farce.

Anonymous said...