More than 200 state inmates—no sex offenders, but probably some convicted of assaults, thefts and drug charges—have left prison so far under a much-debated initiative by Gov. Bill Ritter granting some prisoners parole up to six months early. Ritter administration officials confirmed the updated status of the program this week and say they remain committed to the effort—originally touted as a budget-cutting measure—despite disappointingly low savings.
The early releases, initially projected to save the state budget $19 million, are now likely to net closer to $5 million in savings, according to Ritter administration spokesman Evan Dreyer.
Shortly after the program’s announcement last August, the initiative drew a flurry of attention from the media as well as criticism from some minority Republicans in the legislature who raised concerns about public safety. That was followed by media accounts in October indicating far fewer inmates were deemed appropriate for early release than had been anticipated—meaning scaled-back savings–and that some of those who were being released had extensive and even violent criminal histories.
Dreyer defended the program at the time as “good public policy and good fiscal policy.” However, David Michaud, Chair of the Colorado State Board of Parole, had told the Denver Post that public safety was his primary concern, trumping the budget concerns.
“I’m not going to let someone out early if I don’t think it’s safe,” Michaud said in an Oct. 15 Post report. “I don’t care how much money they save or don’t save.”
The parole board has so far granted early release to a total of 235 prisoners as of Dec. 15. Michaud said today that no prisoners have been released who have committed serious crimes.
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, December 18, 2009