A state plan to release about 3,500 inmates from Colorado prisons for budgetary reasons has Boulder County authorities concerned about potential crowding at the county jail. But, they say, they're also optimistic that the measure will lead to smarter sentencing.
The state plan to help save $320 million will release 15 percent of Colorado's 23,000 inmates over two years, and an additional 2,600 parolees will be released from intense supervision.
Only prisoners who are within six months of their mandatory release date and have served at least half of their supervised term will be eligible for early release. Sex offenders won't qualify, and other offenders, such as people who've committed violent crimes, will undergo rigorous reviews.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said he's concerned that prisoners who are released early might be more likely to re-offend and end up back in the county jail. The state's reduction in prison staff and space also might leave criminals who are sentenced in Boulder County in the local jail longer -- until there is room for them in a state facility.
"When you start doing prison cuts and eliminating bed space, people who get sentenced for crimes are sent back to the county jails to await transfer from the state," Pelle said. "But the state can never take them, and they end up in the county jail forever. That is expensive and causes overcrowding."
On the other hand, Pelle said, he supports statewide sentence reform, and the state's budget-driven prison changes could ensure a systematic shift in how convicted criminals are sentenced.