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.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fewer Prisoners Equals More Graduates?

Peter Marcus, DDN Staff Writer

Friday, June 12, 2009

Denver Daily News


Gov. Bill Ritter yesterday said easing the strain on state prison spending would help graduate more students. 

His comments came during remarks at the two-day “Making Opportunity Affordable” meeting in Denver, sponsored by the Lumina Foundation for Education. Policymakers, as well as college and university officials and business leaders from 11 states participated in the conference, which ended yesterday.

Responding to a question from his audience, Ritter said if states are able to lower their prison spending, more budget dollars could be allocated to education, which would increase graduation rates.

“We’re trying to really get a handle on this,” he said. “We’re not emptying out our prisons by any stretch, but we’re doing a whole anti-recidivism program that we believe will keep people from going back to prison.”

Bill attempted this year

Democratic lawmakers this year attempted to push legislation that would have reduced sentences for non-violent criminals. Senate Bill 286 aimed at lowering the degree and penalty of most non-violent crimes.

The bill would have eliminated incarceration as a sentencing option for first-time non-violent offenders; lowered sentencing ranges; allowed judges the option to sentence defendants to probation, even in circumstances where they have two previous felonies; prohibited judges from sentencing criminals to jail or prison for a probation violation unless it is a new crime; cut down sentences by two days a month for good behavior; and required individuals seeking to create a new crime or increase penalties of an existing crime to present their proposal to the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

But after strong opposition by district attorneys who said the legislation was introduced too late in the legislative session, and would have lead to more crime by lowering the criminal justice fear factor, the bill’s sponsors pulled the measure.

Sponsors say they will introduce the sweeping reform again next year.

Education funding boost sought

Ritter is hopeful that sentencing reform will help boost funding for education, especially higher education, which had its budget cut this year by $153 million as lawmakers struggled to close a two-year budget shortfall of $1.4 billion. Higher education was nearly cut an additional $300 million, but Ritter asked that lawmakers go back to the drawing board and find savings in other areas.

The governor added that part of the problem is that lawmakers are restricted by constitutional spending limits and requirements, as well as federal mandates. Because higher education is not protected by such mandates, it is a frequent target.

Less money for prisons = more for education?

He again turned to prison spending as a solution.

“We believe we can keep people from going back to prison with some different resources or commitment involved — substance abuse, mental health and things of that nature — and if we do, and do this well over a five-year period, we think we can avoid spending up to $350 million on new prisons,” said Ritter. 

“Guess what?” he continued. “That helps higher ed.”

Master plan

Ritter also said yesterday that his administration is working on a “master plan” that would offer an overhaul to the state’s higher education system. He said the idea is only in the beginning stages but that he hopes to present a proposal to lawmakers in the coming years.

“The timing of this week’s meeting is valuable to Colorado because we’re currently planning to engage in a new master plan for higher education,” said Ritter. “During this process, we will do more than simply predict enrollment and forecast costs. We intend to explore policy trade-offs that could dramatically improve systemwide productivity.”

“I don’t expect that it will be easy because it will involve re-examining the goals of postsecondary education in Colorado and how we measure and reward progress, as well as achieving it,” he continued.


Anonymous said...

Ritter ~ "We're not emptying out our prisons by any stretch..." SHOULD read ~ "We're not emptying out our wallets by any stretch..."

I can't take the rest of the article seriously. He has proven himself to uphold corruption in criminal reform over and over. Second term? I seriously hope not.

Not all of us are ingnorant or stupid. Incarcerations will remain excessive under pro-incarceration Ritter's watch. Private prisons provide for him and his batch.

Truth and genuine justice be damned.

Anonymous said...

The above statements are genuine and Ritter is part of the problem as are all of the worthless DA's and there assistance DA's who do not face facts beyond there egotistical problem which gets in the way of common sense. Best solution, make these prison issues campaign questions and then hold those elected to enact the promise's made.
I also suggest all quit paying there taxes and leave Ritter and all his DA,& prison cronys with no money. I would bet there tune would change in a hurry.djw

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Rebel democrats who want reform in this state prison industry were overruled by party bosses and Ritter, who did not come to their support. It is sad that this will not happen in this state nor in our life times while business interests have really taken over our democracy.
Ritter's "study committee" came up with 65 recommendations and the only bill that got through was to cut prisoner's wages to 30 to 60 cents per day and a minor bill to allow a one time discretionary credit to a prisoner for "good behaviour?
All of Ritter's options are to give profits to private corporations that fill politicians campaigns so they can "contract" with the state to run private prisons and halfway houses.mpc