GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -- The debate over how to save our state money just got a lot more controversial.
After first deciding to let some prisoners out early to save money, focus from some state leaders has shifted to next year. Some of those lawmakers are now looking at shortening sentences for certain crimes.
It's all because of the state of Colorado's prison population. The fact is that jails across the state are either at capacity or overcrowded. And housing those criminals is costing a pretty large chunk of change.
With this in mind, some state leaders have developed a plan that would change how long a person has to spend in prison for certain crimes. Some variations of this plan, though, would even shorten sentences for violent crimes like murder and sex offenses.
That's why the proposal is hitting a lot of friction.
Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger says he would support shortened terms for some drug offenses and other minor felonies, but would draw a line when it comes to the violent crimes.
He says less time needs to be focused on shortening prison terms, and more time needs to be spent on making sure these criminals don't have to be put in jail again.
"What we really need to be doing is being smarter with our dollars and finding better ways to equip criminals with the skills to no longer be criminals when they get out of prison," Hautzinger said.
Right now in Colorado, 50% of criminals commit another crime in their lifetimes. That puts Colorado among the worst re-offending states in the nation.
Hautzinger said shortening the prison terms of minor offenders is understandable, but that mandatory sentences for the murderers and sex offenders should not be changed.
The possibility, however, of shortening these terms is far from set in stone. No bill has even been presented to state leaders, but Hautzinger says he's certain it will be.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
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, October 23, 2009