Requiring jail time for repeat drunken drivers may be an expensive proposition, but it's worth pursuing.
A story by Denver Post reporter David Olinger estimates it could cost $20 million to mandate relatively short jail sentences for second- and third-time offenders. It's a significant amount of money, especially during a recession when governments are cutting budgets.
We hope state legislators, as they consider sentencing changes this session, pay attention to the costs they would force on counties by imposing minimum mandatory sentences and treatment requirements for drunken- driving convictions.
It would be difficult for counties to shoulder an extra $20 million in costs, and the state certainly doesn't have the money to pay for it. But the problem is too serious to ignore.
Through prison sentencing reform, it's possible to save money by lessening penalties in some areas to pay for stiffer DUI sentences. At the very least, a third offense ought to trigger mandatory jail time.
Counties have taken notice.
"We're not only going to have to pay the price to house them," said Andy Karsian, legislative liaison for Colorado Counties Inc. "We'll have to treat them, too."
Almost 32,000 people were arrested for drunken driving in Colorado last year. Of those, more than 5,000 were second offenders, and 2,200 were three-time losers or worse.