The Times Call
LONGMONT — Colorado is incarcerating too many criminal offenders without providing the treatment and training those inmates will need to convert to crime-free lives upon release, according to several people attending a Monday night town meeting here.
Not so, said some other meeting-goers. They charged that Colorado convicts are coddled while incarcerated for their crimes.
Those were among the sharply differing viewpoints that state Rep. Claire Levy, Colorado Senate President Brandon Shaffer and Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett heard when a standing-room-only crowd of more than 40 people showed up for a discussion of potential changes to state criminal-sentencing laws.
Amber Lucero, who said her husband Steve Lucero is serving a five-year prison sentence after being convicted in Boulder County of an attempted sexual assault charge, described her spouse’s difficulties in getting into the treatment programs he needs to become eligible for parole.
Amber Lucero, whose husband is housed in the privately operated Kit Carson Correctional Facility in Burlington, also argued that non-violent offenders should be put on probation — where they might have a better chance of getting such treatment — rather than sentenced to prison.
But Al Scheopner, another of person attending Monday’s meeting, called Colorado’s current criminal-justice system “a joke.”
“Prison is a country club. They have more benefits than their victims do,” said Scheopner said, who maintained that “prison needs to be more like hell” for inmates.
Shaffer, D-Longmont, said the ultimate goal should be “public safety.”
But Shaffer, a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said budget problems have sometimes led, for example, to not having enough state officers to oversee the growing population of offenders who still must serve state-set mandatory-parole periods after completing their prison terms.
Scheopner suggested that if the state’s expense of housing prisoners is an issue driving potential sentencing reforms, Colorado should consider “outsourcing” its inmates to other countries that will house those convicts more cheaply, Scheopner suggested.
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, January 08, 2010
The Times Call