Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter used a joint meeting with the 27-member state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice yesterday to announce a plan to save $380 million in skyrocketing prison costs over five years, reports the Rocky Mountain News. His proposed 2009-10 crime prevention and recidivism package which carries a one-year price tag of $10.6 million. Done right, Ritter said, Colorado could eliminate a planned 2,061-bed prison expansion. Its projected cost, $336 million, is included in the governor’s projected savings.
The plan emphasizes prevention services for youth, non-prison programs for non-violent offenders, substance-abuse treatment, and offender education. The commission has its own 66-point plan. Ritter, a former prosecutor, assured the panel that this was a cooperative effort and details of the two plans could mesh. The key to reducing costs, he said, is reducing recidivism. The bad news is that adult recidivism increased from 50 to 53 percent in the last three years. The area of supervision violations needs reform, he said, noting that many felons return to prison not because they commit new crimes but because they violate their probation. He agreed such breaches could be dealt with via jail days, “not always the sledgehammer of a prison bed.” He agreed there should be a comprehensive review of the “overworked” parole system.