DENVER (AP) - Facing opposition from district attorneys, Colorado lawmakers are dropping a plan to overhaul sentencing laws this year.
Instead, they hope to prod the state's criminal justice commission to tackle the issue.
Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer announced the change of course on Tuesday at a news conference called by prosecutors to denounce the sentencing reform bill.
Shaffer says sponsors are rewriting the bill to direct the commission to recommend changes, with possible benchmarks or deadlines for action.
Attorney General John Suthers and DAs from across the state had assembled outside the Capitol to oppose the current version and welcomed the change.
Suthers warns that proposed changes may not be ready by the next session of the Legislature.
DENVERâ€” Today, Senators John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), Morgan Carroll
(D-Aurora), and Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) announced a plan to offer a strike-below amendment to SB 286, the Sentencing Reform Bill. SB 286, sponsored by Senators Morse and Carroll in the Senate, was introduced last week and will be heard in Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow at 1:30p.
In an effort to come up with long-term solutions to the stateâ€™s current budget problem, the Senators agreed to work closely with the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) to fix our budget problems as it pertains to the correctional system in Colorado while at the same time keeping Colorado safe. The strike-below will require the CCJJ to look into sentencing reform and come back to the legislature with suggestions by a date to be determined. More details about this amendment will be available tomorrow.
Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer made the following remarks at a 12:30 rally today on the West Steps. The United States has always stood for democracy and freedom, and essential to that freedom is our judicial system. Public safety and justice are equal priorities in this state and in an effort to preserve fairness and public safety for all Coloradans, we introduced SB 286, but we realized that with a little more than two weeks left in the session this topic needs more discussion. We will ask the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to look at sentencing reform and come back to the legislature in a timely manner with proposed
solutions. We need the best policies and the best long term solutions
for our budget problems, including sentence reform.
Senator John Morse is the Senate sponsor of 286 and the former Fountain police chief. To be clear: sentencing reform is not synonymous with sentence reductions, said Sen. Morse. Reform means just that: making changes to our correctional system to help it run more efficiently and to keep Colorado safe. All of us involved, the Governor, the DAs, the public defender, the victims groups, and the legislators, will make sure we are doing the right thing for our citizens, our budget, for our correctional system, and for Colorado.
Senator Morgan Carroll was the Senate co-sponsor of 286. 1 in 29 Coloradans are under correctional control and 74% of the prison population is serving for non-violent offenses, making corrections now the 3rd largest segment of Colorado's budget, said Sen. Carroll. It is critical that we continue to push for sentencing reform that makes the smartest policy choices based on evidence of what actually works and keeps us safe.
Every dollar we spend in corrections means a dollar we aren't spending on early childhood education, higher education, health care, mental health, economic development, or transportation. We owe it to the citizens of Colorado to at least make sure we are spending their tax dollars wisely."