Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Look to Legislature for Change

“Four out of five voters want the state to focus more on prevention and treatment and less on punishment or incarceration.”  — Terry Hurst, Policy Coordinator at the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition

 

 

Governor Jared Polis’ budget for Colorado’s Department of Corrections managed to remain under a billion dollars, but his proposal does call for reopening a prison built in 2010 that officials decided to close in 2012 due to a declining inmate population.

The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition studied felony filings by the state from 2012 to 2018 and found that filings doubled in 14 of 22 judicial districts, and that the bulk of charges have been for drug possession.

Some theorize that the increase is due to Colorado’s growing population, but in Pueblo County, 304 filings in 2012 swelled to more than 630 by 2018, yet according to data from the Census Bureau the area experienced 4.6% growth between 2010 and 2017.

Terri Hurst the Policy Coordinator for the CCJRC, which recently released a report on prisons in the state, told KGNU that her organization’s legislative agenda includes working with state lawmakers on a bill that would reduce penalties for possession of some controlled substances. “Four out of five voters want the state to focus more on prevention and treatment and less on punishment or incarceration.

Hurst said the legislators they most interact with are on the Judiciary Committee in both chambers. A total of sixteen members serve on these two committees, 11 in the House and 5 in the Senate. According to data at FollowtheMoney.org, the committee members have collectively raised $2.7 million, but it’s non individuals that account for 84% of every dollar contributed to the legislators who themselves were counted among the top 20 donors 62% of the time.