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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Budget Shortfall: Don't Staff CSP II

Colorado has a $17.6 billion state budget this year, but lawmakers trying to cut as much as $600 million in spending don't have many obvious places to go besides higher education.

That's because the amount legislators have real discretion over is much smaller than the total budget. Take away $4.1 billion in federal funding — much of which is matching money for state spending on specific programs — and take away more than $5 billion in revenue from fees devoted to services such as courts, regulatory agencies, highways and colleges, and what you're left with is the state's general fund of less than $8 billion. And in the general fund, the options are not plentiful.

Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, a member of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee, said all programs must be scrutinized closely. But he pointed out that colleges and universities were hit hard by the last recession in the early part of the decade.

"If history is an indication of the future, which it often is," Ferrandino said, "higher education is definitely one of those discretionary areas that has a large amount of funds."

Higher education, which gets nearly 11 percent of the general fund, $812.9 million in the current budget year, is a huge target, although most lawmakers say they are loath to cut it.

"I want to move away from the idea that higher education may be No. 1 on the chopping block," said Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, who will be House speaker in the next session. "We haven't made those decisions yet."

The biggest chunk of the general fund, 42 percent of the total — $3.2 billion in the current budget year that ends in June — goes to public schools. However, the state constitution's Amendment 23 acts as a no- touch rule, requiring education funding to rise every year by at least the rate of inflation.

When it comes to funding schools, lawmakers can tinker only with secondary programs like transportation, extra funding for small and rural schools, English-language classes, vocational training, gifted and talented programs and special education. These programs total about $220 million in the current budget year.

Cutting any of them would be unpopular. The same could be said for the next largest slice of the general fund, the 20 percent spent on Medicaid and the Children's Basic Health Plan. These and other health care programs for the poor cost the state $1.5 billion and serve nearly 500,000 people including the disabled, the elderly, children and pregnant women.

Medicaid and the Children's Basic Health Plan receive federal matching dollars, so cutting state dollars from the programs would "get into a spiral and make it worse," said Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, another JBC member.

A few Medicaid services are optional, meaning the state isn't required by the federal government to offer them to stay in the program, but few lawmakers would urge cutting them. The state, as it did during the last recession, may ask the federal government to increase Washington's share of matching money for Medicaid, at least for a few years.

Lawmakers also would be challenged in the current fiscal year to cut corrections, which represents another 9 percent of the general fund, $676.8 million. JBC members are pondering a delay in opening a prison in the next fiscal year that starts in July, a move that could save the state $16.6 million in the fiscal year and $38.6 million the year after that.

The Denver Post


Anonymous said...

Even though the DOC says it needs CSP II in order to keep order in the prisons. Reality is that when prisoners mis-behave they are put into that prison, rather than correcting the problem. If you audited each case that is in the current CSP, you will see that the DOC is putting in people who do NOT deserve to be locked up 23 hours per day for "damaging a sprinkler" or snapping a dish towel. Gov Ritter is willing to spend $6M on drug rehab programs but $55M on operating the new prison. How stupid.mpc

Anonymous said...

Its real simple, 50 percent or more of the inmates are nonviolent offenders and should have not been locked up in the first place.
Second, the mission of prisons is to hold violent offenders which can be done with 1/2 of present prisons and 1/2 of the present staff. Means DOC's 676.8 million could be cut in 1/2 for a saving of 338.4 million. Then in the criminal justice part there could be proportionate cuts as well. Many judges could go, county DA's staffs could be cut in 1/2 and the savings goes on, with out any loss of public safety. Yes i realize there would need to be more money spent on drug and alcohol rehab programs.
Instead of complaining about what Ritter isnt doing, remember he is a former Denver prosecutor who probably prosecuted the poor as vigorously as the present DA does, it explains the problem. Solution is a re-call petition for Ritter. MPC has the figures right to prove Ritter is the problem. $6 mil on drug rehab and $55 M for the new prison we dont NEED. djw

Anonymous said...