DENVER – The number of inmates in Colorado prisons is falling for the first time in years, and economists predict a steeper slide because of new state laws.
However, some previous forecasts have been off, and Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said the department is being cautious about the projections.
Since fiscal 1993, state prison populations rose from about 9,200 to about 23,000 in fiscal 2009, according to data from the Department of Corrections.
That fell 1.4 percent to 22,860 inmates as of last June. It was the first decline in years but still was short of the state Division of Criminal Justice’s projection for a 3.9 percent decline. The division said there were fewer discretionary parole releases than expected.
Legislative economists predicted in December that there would be just 21,058 inmates in June 2013 because of a combination of recent trends and new state laws. That would represent an average annual decrease of about 2.7 percent.
The Division of Criminal Justice predicts about 21,282 inmates in June 2013.
Sanguinetti expected the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee would scrutinize the numbers more this month because the projections help determine the department’s budget.
State officials have credited recidivism programs, slightly higher release rates, decisions by the parole board and fewer new court convictions for the decline in inmates.
Legislative economists said bills passed in 2010 to reduce penalties for certain repeat offenders and crimes will help shrink the prison population, along with bills addressing earned time and where parolees can be placed.