Colorado prison reform advocates report some wins, some concerns in last legislative session

The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition released its quarterly report last week, with a legislative wrap-up [PDF] on bills that impact the incarcerated population, as well as ex-felons.

The Coalition called one of its biggest victories the passage of House Bill 1082 – Governor Bill Ritter actually vetoed the same bill in 2007 — which will allow individuals convicted of some drug crimes to seal their records 10 years after they complete their sentences. The bill is designed to help ex-convicts access employment; its rationale is that if former prisoners are continually rejected by employers because of their criminal records, they may end up back in prison, thus aggravating Colorado’s recidivism rate.

Another item of note in the quarterly report had to do with the Department of Corrections budget, which increased by 8 percent this year. The Department will receive $795.5 million from the state, and Director Ari Zavaras estimates that the state will need to invest $800 million in new prison construction over the next five years.

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Naomi Zeveloff

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