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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prison Spending The Real Crime - Editorial

Aurora Sentinel

The Aurora Sentinel
Published: Sunday, December 28, 2008 11:02 AM MST
Colorado’s current budget woes present a lot of difficult questions that must be resolved with what are sure to be even more difficult answers — all except for one.

It’s unclear yet whether the state will face a relatively painless shortage of about $70 million next year in trying to fund an expected $7.8 billion in needs and services, or whether more dire projects are accurate and Colorado must find a way to trim more than $600 million from it’s budget.

Either way, anyone who’s spent much time watching the creation of the state’s “long bill,” which is the in essence the state’s annual budget, knows that what actually survives the cuts are only the most needed state services. While there may be some ways to squeeze some savings in line items by increasing productivity, for the most part, Colorado runs a lean system. It’s one that’s become too lean in many areas. The state seriously underfunds programs that save Colorado taxpayers in the long run, such as programs to educate Colorado’s poor children and ensure they are mentally and physically well. No study or analysis disputes that funding such programs prevents the government from spending more on those same children later in forms of other social services, corrections or myriad public assistance programs.

And one of the biggest recipients in the state budget for disregarding those tried and true facts is the Colorado Department of Corrections. If you haven’t given the state’s prison department much thought as news of the dismal economy and growing budget shortages hogs the headlines, you should.

Colorado’s prison system accounts for almost 10 percent of the state’s annual budget, a number that has been steadily growing for years. This year, your tax dollars are paying to keep about 24,000 men and women behind bars at the cost of nearly $30,000 a year each. Compare that with the $6,000 or so the state spends on each Colorado child to provide them with a public education.

Here’s the bad-news, good-news: almost half of these men and women are imprisoned because of drug habits, alcoholism, conspiracy or other non-violent offenses. We’re not suggesting that people don’t need to be policed and punished for violating laws, but study after study shows that by first preventing people from becoming mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics, taxpayers save big by having those future cell mates be productive, taxpaying citizens.

More to the point in Colorado right now, those non-violent offenders who are being housed in prisons mainly because of mental illness or drug problems are running up huge taxpayer tabs.

Certainly, Colorado will struggle by cutting into almost every aspect of the state budget. The state, however, will only benefit by reducing the number of people it must house each year in prisons.

State officials should look closely at finding treatment programs for those convicted solely of non-violent drug crimes and find inexpensive drug treatment programs for these people who could easily being paying taxes instead of being the recipient of them.


Anonymous said...

I have printed this off and will hand it out. It is very well written and should make sense to anyone who reads it. I have sent it to my new state legistative representative, Lois Court, who will sit on the Judiciary committee.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the writer of the article, but none of what has been said will happen because of the way CDOC is allowed to do buisness. They collect money from many scources in addition to what the legislature appropriates. I am sure an audit would show they get kickbacks from canteen operators,telephone companys, and they bleed the familys of inmates in other ways. Also co-pay for medical treatment??? I believe they also take a kickback from the federal government for each prisoner they house. There is no transparency in the operation of the doc nor the criminal justice system in Colorado.
In January we propose to start changing the way they do buisness. Watch for our link so we can all be on the same page. Also, Thanks for a great article. djw

Anonymous said...

There is defintely an inexpensive treatment program called 12 step program its free! Theres ways of keeping tabs of probation clients and parole clients involved in this program.

Anonymous said...