Recidivism Rerun

By Chris Bolte

Illustration by Ross Evertson

According to a white paper produced by the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) in December, approximately 20 percent of Colorado’s prison population is behind bars for drug charges and 60 to 80 percent have drug abuse problems. With the budget deficit affecting programs across the state, CCJJ is making recommendations to reduce recidivism—repeat offenses that result in people returning to prison. A major focus will be improving treatment options.

The white paper cited a  2001 statistic from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) where out of every $100 spent on substance abuse in Colorado, only $0.06 cents goes to treatment—ranking Colorado 49th out of fifty states. Though spending has improved slightly, the 2009 average for all states was still only $2.38 going to treatment for every $100 spent. One method of combating both the inefficient use of resources spent on locking drug users up and the lack of funding for treatment was addressed in House Bill 10-1352. This bill effectively lowered most controlled substance sentences while increasing fines. Bill Kilpatrick, Golden chief of police and commission member, said that saving money from these reductions was not, in itself, enough. Putting that money into treatment services is equally important.

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Local Buzz: Mentors instead of cell mates

Published January 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 1

Colorado Springs non-profits find alternatives to prison for juvenile offenders.

by Chris Bolte

Robert ran away from home at age 17, dropped out of school and couch surfed throughout the Colorado Springs area for four months. He was reluctant to talk about what, exactly, he did, so left it at he “got into trouble” and found himself in a treatment program through the Division of Youth Corrections. Through this program he was able to attain his GED and get started on a new path.

His circumstances are not at all uncommon.  Dropping out of school has ramifications for young adults; idle time, isolation and even being cut off from many services provided for those still attending school. It can be a recipe for bad decisions.

Minor charges specific to youth are things like truancy or running away from home, gateway crimes.  Some youth continue on this track to more serious crimes.  They can be sent to the Division of Youth Corrections or, even worse, adult prison.

From there, if a youth returns to the same peers upon release, the same temptations to commit crimes and return to the system all over again are all but inevitable.  This is what we have come to know as the recidivism problem.

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