Colorado prisons are overflowing with inmates, at a cost of nearly $700 million a year to taxpayers, in part due to mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, a panel of state lawmakers and sentence reform advocates said at a town hall meeting Saturday.
To ease the pressure on the state prison system, the 2010 General Assembly will be asked to pass a package of bills that would give judges discretion at sentencing to let some of those convicts out sooner.
The sentencing reform package also will include bills reducing penalties for possession of marijuana and other drugs. For example, possession of 4 ounces of marijuana would become a petty offense instead of a criminal misdemeanor. Possession of 8 to 16 ounces would be a misdemeanor under the bills, instead of a felony.
Similar reductions would apply to possession of small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine and various prescription drugs, with the exception of “date-rape” drugs.
The package also will address DUI sentencing laws, perhaps raising penalties for habitual DUI convictions, said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
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.
Sunday, November 22, 2009