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.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

How Obamacare May Lower the Prison Population More Than Any Reform in a Generation

How Obamacare May Lower the Prison Population More Than Any Reform in a Generation

many have focused on the individual mandate, and the online (and
glitchy) insurance exchanges, one of the most potentially impactful
elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has
flown more or less under the radar. It may be the biggest piece of
prison reform the U.S. will see in this generation.
the face of it, there’s no direct connection between the ACA and what
experts refer to as the “justice-involved population.” There’s no
mention of prisons or jails or even crime in the language of the law.
However, in what proponents of the act are considering a happy public
policy accident, the ACA may inadvertently change the makeup of the U.S.
prison population by getting early help to those with mental health and
drug abuse issues, ultimately reducing recidivism rates and saving
states millions, if not billions, of dollars annually.
years, the prison population in the United States stayed more or less
the same, hovering between 150,000 and 200,000 total incarcerated in
either state or federal correctional facilities. In the early 1980s that
number began to skyrocket, and by 2010, 1.57 million Americans were
very little argument why.  The “epidemic of incarceration over the last
four decades,” as Josiah Rich, a professor of medicine and epidemiology
at Brown University, and co-founder of The Center for Prisoner Health
and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital, puts it, can be mostly
attributed to two diseases: addiction and mental illness. “The natural
history of these diseases, when not treated, leads to behaviors that, in
our society, result in incarceration,” Rich tells
backs Rich up. In 1980, the number of Americans incarcerated for
drug-related offenses was around 41,000. Then, in 1982, the country’s
“War on Drugs” officially commenced, and by 2011, that number had shot
up to 500,000. In conjunction with funding the front on drug users,
President Ronald Reagan defunded federal mental health programs,
dropping total mental health spending by over
30 percent.
As a result, many of the nation’s mentally ill lost what was
essentially their home and place of work, and many ended up on the
Today, a good portion of those make their beds in prisons and jails. The last major study on mental health in prisons,
conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that 64 percent of
inmates in state and federal prisons met the criteria for mental
illness at the time of their booking or during the twelve months leading
up to their arrest. For comparison, the rate of mental disorders among
U.S. citizens stands at around 25 percent, according to the NIH. Sixty-nine percent of the country’s prison population was addicted to drugs or alcohol prior to incarceration.

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