Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s $18 billion budget proposal includes the lowest increase for prisons in years, a stark contrast to his predecessor’s parting financial plan, the Denver Post reports. Instead of emphasizing prison beds, the governor’s proposal released yesterday would pump $5.9 million into programs aimed at reducing recidivism. Ritter said substance-abuse, mental-health,l and vocational programs for adults and youth could save $17 million in prison costs during the next five years. Republicans said the former district attorney is being “irresponsible” and lax about public safety.
The governor is proposing to raise corrections spending by $38 million, or 6 percent. Gov. Bill Owens’ eighth and final budget last year focused on prisons and roads, including a $51 million, or 8.7 percent, increase for corrections. The former governor warned that the cost of not incarcerating criminals is high for victims, insurance companies, and prosecutors. Ritter wants additional $8.6 million for prison population growth next year, but he said his package of 12 anti-recidivism initiatives would cut down on future prison beds, which cost the state $28,783 annually for each inmate. “It is a place where I really believe you can spend money and, at the end of the day, save money,” he said.