Colorado drug offenders could spend less time in jail and more time in rehabilitation programs under a sentencing-reform proposal that debuted at yesterday with widespread support and the goal of curbing repeat offenses, reports the Denver Post. The plan would lower the penalties for people found in possession of up to 4 grams of most drugs, shaving years off sentences and saving the state money by vacating prison beds, advocates said. The savings – which doubters argue may never materialize – could provide the first large and reliable funding stream to treat addictions.
The legislation also marks the first time lawmakers stand a chance at large-scale drug-sentencing reform, said a variety of backers. State Public Defender Doug Wilson said the bill “had a 100 percent chance of passing” and that its chief accomplishment would be drawing a more clear distinction between drug users and drug dealers. “Colorado is starting to recognize that locking people up in prison for what is essentially a disease is not a way to cut recidivism,” Wilson said. One in five of Colorado’s 22,600 inmates landed in prison for primary drug offenses, though not all would qualify for lighter sentences, said Attorney General John Suthers, who backs the bill.