Colorado to Double-Down on Dumb Crime Policies

There's being smart on crime, tough on crime, and now just plain old dumb on crime.

Colorado's new Governor, John Hickenlooper, formerly the popular Mayor of Denver, has just joined the ranks of those who are dumb on crime.

Former Governor Bill Ritter, who previously served two terms as Denver's elected District Attorney, initiated several programs aimed at providing educational opportunities, mental health and drug treatment and vocational programs to inmates, all of which were aimed at reducing recidivism and helping the inmates with re-entry after release.

Hickenlooper has announced as part of his budget cuts (which already made him unpopular due to his announced cuts of $375 million for k-12 education) that he is cutting some of the inmate re-entry programs begun under Ritter.

Joseph Boven at Colorado Independent reports:

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget proposal cuts programs designed to reduce recidivism, prevent juveniles from entering the criminal justice system and cut the number of repeat drug offenders in jail — programs former Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration said were saving the state millions of dollars. Colorado realized significant savings as a result of Ritter’s recidivism and diversion packages as indicated in a fact sheet released by the Office of State Planning and Budgeting in 2010.

Examples of the cuts: [More...]

“Offender Education and Skill Building,” a category of programs shown by both Ritter and Hickenlooper’s budget proposals as significantly reducing the frequency with which inmates return to prison, is stripped of over $3 million in funding.

Cuts to correctional education would limit inmates’ ability to earn high school diplomas or GEDs, and limit vocational training, and even basic reading and writing instruction. Approximately 650 inmates would see their access to education suspended as teachers and staff are cut.

Studies have shown that these programs work. And save money.

Multiple studies conducted between 1996 and 2006 showed that correctional education and vocational programs decreased recidivism by 5-35 percent. Those studies further showed that 24 percent of individuals who received vocational training were able to attain full-time work after leaving a half-way house.

...for every $1 million put into correctional education programs, future costs were reduced by $1.6 million.

Other dumb cuts:

The budget also strikes at youth prevention and intervention, behavioral health, and community correction programs touted by the former administration for their ability to make the state safer while also saving money.

And then there's this:

Funded with $1.8 million, the Department of Corrections currently provides wraparound services to parolees as a result of HB10-1360, which consist of job assistance, mental health and substance abuse treatment, psychotropic medication, and assistance integrating back into the community. Hickenlooper’s budget strips this program of funding of $1.3 million annually, leaving $500,000 to administer the services.

Hickenlooper proposed eliminating job positions for 23 employees in Colorado's Therapeutic Community Program, which reduces recidivism among those with mental health and drug problems.

He's also cutting The Circle Program in its entirety:

Circle Program is a Joint Commission accredited, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (ADAD) licensed, intensive inpatient treatment program which serves adults who suffer from co-occurring disorders. Our comprehensive treatment program addresses mental illness, chemical dependence, personality disorders and criminal behavior.

....The treatment team consists of a board certified addiction psychiatrist, a master's level team leader, a licensed social worker, registered nurses, licensed psychiatric technicians, mental health workers and a recreational therapist, the majority of whom are also certified addiction counselors or licensed addiction counselors. The team is supported by psychological, vocational, educational, spiritual and nutrition services.

The program's components are here.

Vanita Gupta of the ACLU tells Colorado Independent:

The current budget proposal that cuts education, mental health and reentry programs is the perfect recipe for higher recidivism rates.

Put more people in prison and the budget costs soar. Allow these programs to expand, and they save money. How much easier does it get?

Someone needs to explain this to the Governor. It's like he just doubled-down on every bad crime strategy. By denying people the help they need in prison that will allow them to stay out of prison and the criminal justice system in the future, we're just going to end up with bigger budgetary needs for prisons. Back to square one: more criminals, more recidivism, less safe communities, sky-rocketing corrections costs.

Memo to Governor Hickenlooper: We know you have no background in criminal justice issues. That's okay. But we expected you to hire advisers who do. You're getting very bad advice. Please swap out your team before they torpedo what could be a popular and successful agenda. Make a U turn immediately. This is not about being soft on crime, it's about increasing the safety of our community by decreasing recidivism though programs that give inmates skills, options and tools to live a crime-free life when they get out of prison.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Hickenlooper knows how it works (none / 0) (#4)
    by Yes2Truth on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 09:34:18 AM EST

    WE may wish it weren't so, but the truth is that in our country, as it is in most countries, ambitious politicians (or those who merely want to remain in office) must play to rightwing interests.  Studies prove they pay no attention to the interests of
    voters such as those who enjoy this web site.

    Hickenlooper is no dummy.

    My sister teaches in a prison (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:36:09 AM EST
    They do it in PODS and it isn't a safe place to be. One teacher was killed a few years back.

    She says that as those who not read well learn to do so they start paying attention to the basic English class she teaches and that they start to enforce POD rules over the rowdy ones.

    All the facts and figures aside, if a person cannot read and write basic English they will be greatly handicapped in trying to live in our modern society.

    Education of prisoners is money well spent. I am amazed any governor, much less Hickenlooper, reducing funds.

    comment deleted for namecalling. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 12:07:44 PM EST

    Governers are screwed (none / 0) (#7)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 01:06:28 PM EST
    I don't personally agree with these cuts (or some of the cuts happening in my state) but I have a lot more sympathy for Governors and State Legislatures when it comes to cuts- I mean states can't run deficits like the Fed can its just not legally possible as such some cuts- even stupid ones have to be made since unlike National Tax increases State Tax increase do generally have a provable link to business and individual relocation.  Ideally congress- even a whacked out GOP congress would approve block grants to states to cover budget shortfalls for the next few years- I mean the need to keep state budgets balanced (or rather the fact that the cuts they made laid bare the short con that is the GOPs approach to governance) is what essentially destroyed the political careers of some of the people the GOP thought were going to be frontrunners- guys like Jindal, etc- its whats going to takedown Christie and probably Daniels in the next few years as well.

    Zero Tolerance is hurting our kids. (none / 0) (#8)
    by dkmich on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:07:15 PM EST
    This is a very serious problem.  Schools are turning kids into felons for no reason other than to make sure they don't get sued for not mindlessly complying with this law.   Getting fresh with a partner is criminal sexual conduct.  6 y/o finds a brings a gun to school and is permanently expelled.  
    Our kids are being held to a higher standard than  adults.   Abusing and taking advantage of the most vulnerable is what this country does best.  People suck.