Colorado lawmakers unexpectedly yanked a sentencing reform proposal from legislative consideration just as law enforcement officials were preparing to publicly pan it.
Colorado Springs Democratic Sen. John Morse's bill would have reduced penalties for nonviolent, property and drug offenses. Sponsors now plan to amend it so that a commission studying the state's justice system can review sentencing guidelines and offer recommendations on reform to the legislature.
Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, appeared at a news conference Tuesday where state Attorney General John Suthers, Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey and others were scheduled to speak against the bill.
"We realized that with a little more than two weeks left in the session, this topic needs more discussion," Shaffer said. "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."
The sweeping plan offered by Morse proposed lower penalties for nonviolent, property and drug offenses — some to the point of eliminating jail time. The bill would roll back the range on some felony sentences to pre-1985 levels and relax laws that put those on probation behind bars for minor mistakes. Supporters said the proposal would cut the amount needed to fund incarceration.
Suthers said he favors reform but the bill would keep some people out of prison who should serve time.
Suthers called the decision to send the proposal to the commission "good news."
"We need to have a healthy and vigorous debate on these issues, and this should become a priority next year," he said.