Growing prison populations and dire budget shortfalls have forced states to consider criminal justice policy changes that until recently might have been considered political suicide.
Those changes, which are being enacted or debated in states across the country, are designed to reduce prison and jail populations through sentencing changes, recidivism reduction programs and early release modifications.
In short, officials are increasingly coming to the conclusion that government can no longer afford to incarcerate the nearly 2.3 million people in jails and prisons across the nation.
Don't be surprised if that debate surfaces in Colorado in the shape of sentencing reform.
Colorado Sen. Moe Keller, chair of the Joint Budget Committee, recently told us that she has been hearing conversations about the possibility of sentencing restructuring.
Those changes might involve removing mandatory minimum sentencing requirements. Another change in the wind is modification of how prisoners earn time off their sentences.
In Virginia, state senators are crafting plans to change sentencing policies so that hundreds, maybe thousands, of prisoners can be released early.
The state is hoping to close a prison or two and save perhaps $50 million that would go toward closing a $3 billion budget shortfall.
In Kentucky, New York and California, there are similar problems and proposed or enacted solutions designed to reduce corrections budgets.
Here in Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter last year presented a five-year plan to cut down on repeat offenders by investing in prevention services for youth, incarceration diversion, transitional services, substance abuse treatment and offender education.
As it stands, Colorado's recidivism rate of released offenders returning to prison within three years is 53.4 percent.
The governor estimates his plan would save $380 million, most of which would come from not having to build a new prison. And it costs about $25,000 annually to incarcerate a prisoner in existing facilities.
We think the governor's plan is a prudent one and we hope it works. It has been evident for quite some time that the state has to find a way to get a grip on corrections expenses.