Ritter Talks Recidivism

Gov. Ritter signed the legislature’s budget bill into law today, and a key element deals with reducing the prison recidivism rate in Colorado.

The bill includes a slight increase for mental health diversion programs and over a million for substance abuse programs.

More details after the flip.From the release:

Governor’s Recidivism Reduction and Offender Diversion Package
An increase of $0.2 million ($0.1 million General Fund) was provided for mental health diversion programs and for therapeutic community (substance abuse treatment) programs, $1.5 million General Fund for 126 community corrections transition beds, including 60 for mentally ill clients, in the Department of Public Safety.

An increase of $1.3 million ($0.7 million General Fund) was provided to expand the Short-term Residential Remediation and Treatment (STIRRT) program for adults with substance abuse problems and an increase of $1.9 million General Fund was provided to restore funding for the S.B. 91-94 (alternatives to detention) youth corrections programs in the Department of Human Services.

Additionally, $3.2 million in immediate General Fund savings to the Department of Corrections was achieved for FY 2007-08 associated with the diversion initiatives and $200,000 was added to the Division of Criminal Justice to research the out-year benefits resulting from the recidivism package.

One thing the budget does not seem to make room for however, are treatment programs outside of the criminal justice system, or as Christie Donnor put it at a recent panel discussion on corrections, “you have to get busted in order to access services.”

But despite the problems, the new budget is certainly a small start at tackling the state’s high recidivism rate.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.