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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Budget Minimizes Pain

By Governor Bill Ritter

Over the past few months, I have worked closely with lawmakers to erase nearly $1.5 billion in recession-caused budget shortfalls. On Tuesday, I presented a new plan to close an additional $318 million gap.

These are not easy times for any of us. I grew up in a big family of modest means. There were periods when my father couldn't find work, when the only way my mother could put dinner on the table was with food stamps. I know what it's like to struggle, and I know families and businesses across Colorado continue to hurt.

That's why I approached this round of budget cutting and balancing thoughtfully, surgically and compassionately. We've made great progress the past 2 1/2 years investing in education, health care, the economy and infrastructure. This balancing plan reflects the same smart investment strategy, the same ethic of efficiency and the same culture of cost-cutting I've instilled in state government since January 2007.

This plan minimizes pain, protects essential safety-net services, and maintains investments in our children and our future that will allow us to recover stronger, healthier and quicker.

There are more than 100 separate line-item reductions in this plan and, along with earlier cuts, it lowers state spending levels by 10.4 percent compared with a year ago.

I worked hard to soften impacts and ensure that eliminated services will be effectively provided at the community level. Nevertheless, there is still much pain and sacrifice asked of Coloradans.

Critics will say we did not cut enough or that we should have eliminated tax breaks. It was important to reduce spending, find innovation and achieve greater efficiencies. I could not support erasing this shortfall by eliminating the very tax credits that keep our businesses and economy competitive with other states. And many of these sales-tax exemptions, such as those on food and pharmaceuticals, protect consumers all across Colorado.

While the economic downturn poses challenge after challenge, it also created an opportunity to enact an innovative recommendation from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice that fits within my ongoing anti-prison- recidivism initiative.

As part of this balancing plan, we will save $20 million through a pilot program that will:

• Accelerate the transition from parole to community for eligible parolees.

• Enhance supervision and education, job-training and treatment services for new parolees.

• Accelerate the transition from prison to parole for parole-eligible inmates whose mandatory release date is within 180 days anyway.

I was a criminal prosecutor for 25 years, and I know we need new approaches to corrections. This pilot program is based on research, evidence and experience. More than half of all states are adjusting their corrections and sentencing procedures in the face of declining revenues.

By taking these steps, we were able to protect vital health care and human service programs, while also maintaining investments in job-creation, economic development and education.

No comments: