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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aurora Sentinel Archives Opinion Editorials Editorial: Need a budget fix? Solve Colorado's costly prison system

Aurora Sentinel Archives Opinion Editorials Editorial: Need a budget fix? Solve Colorado's costly prison system
There could be one good thing that comes from the state’s ever-increasing budget crisis: The state may be forced to deal with its costly and ineffective prison system.

Gov. Bill Ritter and state lawmakers got more bad news Monday in regards to the condition of Colorado’s finances: We’re broke and getting poorer. Budget predictions reveal that Ritter must cut another $75 million from this fiscal year’s budget. That’s after lawmakers already lopped off hundreds of millions of dollars in spending.

The reductions have resulted in reduced services statewide, cuts to public school budgets and higher tuition at state colleges, where cuts have become a way of doing business. It will mean more furlough days for state employees, fewer road repairs and deep cuts to a long list of already overtaxed social services.

It’s unfair to those several million Colorado residents who abide by the law to continue to spend so much money on those who don’t.

News at the end of last year from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that Colorado spends more per capita on prison costs than any other state. Way more. And way more just got even bigger with Ritter having to carve $75 million out of other state services.

The annual survey of state services showed that Colorado spent just under $1 billion for prison and correction programs in 2008, making up a whopping 5.1 percent of state expenditures. The report stated that the average prison expenditure for states was 3.3 percent of revenue.

Colorado warehouses about 24,000 prisoners a year at a cost of almost $30,000 each. And the bottom line gets worse every year. Colorado’s prison population has risen almost 5 percent a year for the past 10 years, double the growth rate of the national average.

Too many of those locked up are nothing more than foolish drug addicts and alcoholics, many of whom become real criminals while being stored in state prisons on the taxpayer’s tab.

The state could realize big, meaningful savings by doing more to treat drug addicts and alcoholics for their problems rather than warehouse them at great expense, and too often turning them into lifelong societal problems.

It doesn’t mean that Colorado should let loose dangerous murderers and other thugs to victimize state residents. But in too many prison cells, beds are taken up by people who only victimize themselves.

Colorado should look closely at sentencing reform and do more to save taxpayer money and the lives of addicts.


Anonymous said...

Our prison system is a mess and our legislators continue to allow DOC to con them out of money by allowing inmates to be murdered in order to justify CSP II. We need to change more laws including requiring the community corrections boards to use the same criteria the parole board now has to use when considering those people eligible for community corrections, especially Denver county. They lock up the most violent offenders and they refuse to take them back...as usual forcing them to their MRD with no transition back to freedom whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Criminal Justice and Correctional policies in the State of Colorado are insane as noted by the datain the editorial. We pay more per inmate in DOC than the cost of sending a future doctor to medical school per year-that is insanity. Most inmates have not completed high school but we are willing to send $30,000 a year per inmate as we lay off teacher-insanity. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.