Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bill to help drug abusers needs cash commitment - The Denver Post

Bill to help drug abusers needs cash commitment - The Denver Post

The idea is laudable: Cut prison sentences for drug abusers and get them into treatment so they have the tools to stop using.

We support the philosophy embodied in House Bill 1352, but one element of it gives us pause: the money.

The bill directs Colorado legislators to put some of the money saved by reducing prison sentences into a drug treatment fund. Then, the state pays for drug abusers' addiction treatment rather than their costly prison stay.

We wonder though, given the desperate fiscal straits the state cyclically finds itself in, whether the political will to stick to those principles will remain when tough budget decisions need to be made.

It's pretty easy to imagine how the drug treatment fund would be raided — just as other funds have been drained — when the economy goes south and revenues dry up.

We are not suggesting that ironclad constraints be put on the drug treatment fund. To the contrary. Colorado already suffers from too many fiscal mandates that create all kinds of problems.

But a bill such as this one makes the need for state fiscal reform all the more clear. And it would take an ongoing commitment from elected legislators to ensure it has the intended impact.

The bill has one big political plus. It is sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators, which says to us its aims are less likely to be sacrificed for political purposes.

The bill would significantly decrease penalties for those users possessing small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

For instance, someone caught possessing between one and four grams of cocaine now would get up to six years in prison. According to the bill, that offender would get a prison term of up to 18 months.

Such a change will save the state money, but the ultimate success of the measure is dependent upon those offenders getting treatment. Otherwise, you have a bill that cuts prison sentences and does nothing to address the root cause of the problem.

It then would dump people with untreated drug problems onto communities that already have seen funding dry up for the services that could put a drug addict on course to a productive life.

Treating the addiction in community-based programs also should reduce recidivism, and slow increasing prison costs. That's undoubtedly in the public interest.

Over the years, corrections costs have consumed an increasing portion of the state budget. In 1980, prison costs comprised less than 3 percent of the general fund. Now it's more like 10 percent. It's a long-term trend Colorado can't afford.

Drug users are better off getting help than occupying an expensive prison bed. It's just disquieting to us that there is such strong potential for only half the bargain being kept.


Anonymous said...

If you people would listen and get behind what the people want and thats to get rid of mandatory parole, there would be plenty of money saved. Were talking of over 4500 people who are on mandatory parole sentenced to that by the legislature. They have already served enough time in prison. They dont need anymore control from the DOC officers.

Anonymous said...

After Treatment Drug court they have found to be the most effective way. It gives them enough rope to hang themselves and for society as a whole understand that they are not bad people that need to get good. They are sick people that need to get well.