Incarcerado – Colorado’s Latest Corrections Data

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Pew Center on the States has recently released their report “One in 31:  The Long Reach of American Corrections.”  This is an updated report on last years report revealing a staggering social expense to our current corrections system.

Here are some relevant statistics for Colorado:

  * 1 in 29 adults is under correctional control (compared with 1 in 102 adults in 1982).

  * Colorado spent $625 Million on corrections (nearly twice spending on higher ed)

  * By end of 2007, 30% of correctional population was in prison or jail (in 1982 that figure was 26%)

  * Colorado has 77,635 people in probation (238 federal)

  * Colorado has 11,086 people on parole (954 federal)

  * Colorado has 22,666 people in prison (1,736 federal)

  * Colorado has 13,871 people in jail

  * For every $1 Colorado spent on prisons in 2008, it spent $0.15 on probation and parole.

  * 1 day of prison costs ($76.51) = 6 days of parole or 21 days of probation.

  * Colorado ranks 15th highest prison / corrections population among the 50 states

You can download the full report by visiting

In a balanced budget state, this means every dollar spent on corrections is a dollar NOT spent on K12, higher ed, economic development, transportation, health care, senior homestead exemption, etc.

We can not afford to ignore sentencing reform in this era of staggering budget shortfalls.  We are spending an extraordinary amount of money incarcerating primarily non-violent offenders (74%).

Would you support criminal sentencing reform as an option to help balance the state budget if we could do so without compromising public safety?

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21 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. redstateblues says:

    It would greatly benefit this state to get sentencing reform passed next session. Not only for financial reasons, but because 1 in 29 adults incarcerated is simply intolerable.

    It’s indicative of societal problems that need to be changed, not just political fixes that need to happen.

  2. Half Glass Full says:

    I’m normally not all that excited about some of the positions you take, but this is an important topic and I’m glad you’re giving it exposure. From 1 in 102 to 1 in 29! That’s amazing.

    Keep in mind that for many of those needlessly incarcerated people, their and their loved ones’ lives will be at best terribly harmed and at worst utterly ruined.

  3. “Hell, Yes!”

    Sentencing reform, drug law reform, and control of prison administration expenses should all be not just on the table, but near the top of the pile when looking at our state budget.

  4. tallport says:

    Great Post Senator.  Senator Webb is looking at the issue on the Federal level also.

    It’s time to change the law

    By Senator Jim Webb

    published: 03/29/2009

    I am now introducing legislation that will create a national commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom….see link  

  5. morgancarroll says:

    If any of you are interesting in following criminal justice reform, the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice has meetings, agenda etc. that can be found at:

    You can write commission members with your ideas and suggestions.

    Thanks for your interest!

    • Car 31 says:

      isn’t moving very fast and seems to give deference to DAs who don’t support sentencing reform (or didn’t during the last session).

      If this group of big brains is able to find their way through their maze of committees, subcommittees, workgroups and taskforces, I’ll be amazed. If they come up with substantial policy, like SB08-286, it will be a miracle.

      Sentencing reform is a no brainer. Judicial discretion is necessary but mandatory minimums are not. The outcry over public safety is disingenuous when we harm our state more by pouring millions in to the Dept. of Corrections annually.

      Good luck with moving this forward. I hope all of the people who ‘were left out’ of the conversations concerning last year’s sentencing reform bill are now saying it is a good idea.

      clarification: not quoting you above, but the members of the CCCJJ who bitched and moaned last year when SB286 was debated.  $5.00 says any sentencing reform bill for next year will mirror last year’s SB286 and we’ll have wasted a year’s worth of savings.

      ahhhhh, well….

      • cologeek says:

        I agree with the need for sentencing reform, but I still believe that those who use coercive violence to get what they want should not be on our streets.  

        Reducing or removing prison time for non-violent offenders is a reasonable argument to make, especially given the costs of keeping them incarcerated.  And I am fully in concert with those who believe that narcotics prohibition has worked as well as the alcohol version did.

        But reducing sentences across the board in the name of fiscal policy is a non-starter with me.  Save money, but don’t reduce our safety.

        • Jambalaya says:

          Returning judicial sentencing discretion does not equal “reduc[ing] our safety”.  If the circumstances truly demonstrate that the person should get a lengthy sentence, he or she will receive one.  But giving sentencing discretion to one familiar with the facts of the particular case helps alleviate overly harsh sentences in cases that don’t fit a cookie-cutter mold.

        • Car 31 says:

          Should have been more clear.

          Although, I’m not a fan of mandatory minimums, we don’t need to tackle that issue with violent felonies in a sentencing reform bill.  You think the DAs don’t like sentencing reform now, throw in violent felonies…stand back ’cause DA Tow’s head would explode!

          Plenty of money, around $60-$80 million, if I remember the fiscal note for SB286 correctly, can be saved by reforming nonviolent sentencing.

  6. Jambalaya says:

    (speaking of incarceration)

  7. Middle of the Road says:

    placed on programs that focus on reducing the rate of recidivism for convicted offenders.

  8. DavidThi808 says:

    decriminalize drugs. Yes we need to address drug abuse. But making it illegal doesn’t work and we’re throwing away immense amounts of money.

  9. allyncooper says:

    It’s no secrete the escalating costs of corrections have been a ticking fiscal time bomb in the state budget, and yet year after year the issue is not addressed.

    An appropriate analogy would be the failure of this country to address the escalation in health care, now costing 16% of our economy, when other industrialized countries long ago addressed this issue and are around 8% to 10% of their economies.

    Spending almost twice on corrections as we do on higher ed is more than disturbing…it’s outrageous. The political will must be found to tackle this issue next session and make it a priority.

    Thank you Senator Carroll for the fortitude to take on this unglamorous but essential issue.  

  10. Thank you for your great work on this – I am greatly behind you

    Please keep in mind that too many politicians in our good State are taking money from prison builders and managers, including CORNELL PAC and CORNELL EMPLOYEES PAC

    Stopping the purchasing of politicians by prison builders and prison managers would be a great first step towards ending wrongful prison spending

  11. morgancarroll says:

    Thank you to everyone who weighed in on this!

    • Canines says:

      even though I didn’t say a word until now.

      I can actually say that, in this one thread on ColoradoPols, I actually agree with both DavidThi808 and Muhammad Ali Hasan.

  12. smellykat says:

    Just cutting sentences without putting in place the programs offenders need is not quite the answer.  We need to use some of the savings from reduced incarceration to do more in the community to help these folks succeed.

    • Danny the Red (hair) says:

      Home monitoring, drug testing and employment support on the outside would cut the incarceration rate right down.

      While I agree that decrim has an appeal for drug crimes, many property and violence crimes are driven either by the need to feed the habit or under the influence of chemicals–so a full legalization is probably not workable.

      I agree that long term health of communities will reduce crime, but we have direct needs for the money in rehabilitation and treatment.  

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