Rocky Mountain News: It's time for some thinking outside the box when it comes to corrections - particularly as Colorado's recidivism rate, which is a measure of how many inmates wind up back in prison within three years of their release, has jumped to 53.4 percent. Gov. Bill Ritter wants to focus on stemming the flow of return offenders - and promises a hefty return on a relatively small investment.
But can Ritter's anti-recidivism plan - targeted at a prison population where 78 percent are said to have substance-abuse problems and 28.7 percent are deemed to be in need of mental-health services - really eliminate the need for growth in prison beds without jeopardizing public safety?
We think it's worth the investment to find out, while advising a healthy level of skepticism.
The governor touts his anti-recidivism package as costing $10.6 million in its first year while saving $380.5 million over five years. The bulk of those savings would come from not having to expand the Trinidad Correctional Facility by 2,061 beds but the savings also assume no more new beds throughout the entire system by fiscal year 2013-14.
Current Division of Criminal Justice statistics project 4,444 more offenders in the corrections system between the 2009-10 fiscal year and 2013-14. The governor's anti-recidivism plan promises to have 4,965 fewer offenders coming through the system in that time period. In other words, Ritter plans to halt the growth in incarcerated offenders - a laudable but highly ambitious goal given the history of the past two decades.
Rocky Mountain News