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.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Are Prisons Too Costly For States

The Denver Post

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.


Anonymous said...

Why is it so evident to those of us not involved in government that a few of the easiest ways to cut expense is to release non-violent offenders, offer more programs, help offenders re-enter society and end mandatory parole which in essence does nothing more than keep the revolving doors, revolving!?


Anonymous said...

I agree 100%, however the problem is Governor Ritter is a former prosecutor that helped put a lot of those people in prison. He appointed an old crony, Ari Zavaras to head CDOC?? A big mistake also. Mandatory parole needs to go as it is nothing more than a second sentence to prison for no crime committed. It appears like the real guilty person is the Colorado state legislature. I urge everyone to sign your petion to end mandatory parole. djw

Anonymous said...