Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter today is signing bills that aim to lessen punishment for criminals and promote rehabilitation among the convicted, the Denver Post reports. Curbing the rate at which criminals reoffend has been part of Ritter’s agenda since taking office; this year was the first that he and bipartisan allies targeted controversial topics such as sentencing and parole reform to pay for it.
Jailing fewer low-level drug offenders, diverting more criminals to community programs and paroling inmates more often could save more than $91 million over five years – though critics doubt the estimate – and fund an array of treatment programs. Colorado joins several other states in shifting limited resources from containment to treatment. Critics say the changes endanger public safety by tinkering with a system that works. “The attitude has been ‘Just lock them up.’ We’ve really seen violent crime decrease over time, but the downside is we weren’t  spending time considering these are actually health issues and public safety issues,” the Democratic governor said. “This is the biggest year in terms of a major policy shift. The sentencing policy is a more difficult nut to crack. Always has been.”