Bad recession calculus: released cons; laid-off cops

News this week is that the Colorado Department of Corrections has begun processing inmates for the first wave of this year’s planned mass early releases, a result of state budget cuts ordered by Governor Ritter. Also news is that the state’s dwindling revenue will similarly force major layoffs among the Denver police force. So, on the streets there will be more cons and less cops. Welcome to recession Colorado.

Department of Corrections Spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti told the Colorado Independent that roughly 1,800 inmates will be released in the next fiscal year, from the end of September through June, roughly.

“We’re starting to review files. The Governor’s order went into effect September 1st. So releases are set to begin late September and early October.”

Those 1,800 inmates scheduled for release this year are just from the “prison to parole” population, she said. In the next two years 3,500 prisoners will be released and 2,600 “parole to community” former inmates will be released from obligations such as meeting with parole officers and counselors.

Sanguinetti says that violent offenders will be included in the release program but that their cases will be subject to additional review by deputy directors even before the cases are submitted to parole boards. Sex offenders aren’t eligible for early release either from prison or parole.

“We just find sex offenders are more successful in integrating into the community if they have supervision,” Sanguinetti said.

She adds that she has heard no real “buzz” from inmates or staff regarding the program. Department of Corrections employees she says have avoided assessing the merits of the early release initiative or any related politics mostly because they are focused on the major task of processing the releases.

“All we’re talking about is how we will go about implementing this program.”

In Denver Tuesday, Mayor Hickenlooper gave further indication that cuts in the city police force were on the way after the Denver Police Union voted not to postpone its annual 4 percent pay increase. Hickenlooper said that the police force is one of the highest priorities for the city, but “that doesn’t mean that you write a blank check. That’s irresponsible.”

The statement came after a 60-40 vote by the Police Protection Association to maintain its current contract, putting an end to Hickenlooper’s hopes of cutting what he said would be a $12 million slice out of the city budget, reportedly $120 million dollars in the red. As a result of the union’s decision not to accept the new contract stipulating a “postponement” of raises for one year, 91 police officers will likely be laid off this year, according to the mayor’s office.

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