Dry Bones: A different look at life in Denver

By Sarah Harvey

We began just north of Union Station, in the shadow of Coors Field, and made our way southwest along Delgany Street; it was a small stretch of land near the railroad tracks that development had missed (for now). We walked past a warehouse, past dirt lots just waiting for the right buyer. We stopped for a few minutes near an empty lot, where Robbie and Matt, our tour guides, reminded us to think about the meanings behind things we saw. At one point during the walk, Robbie pointed to an orange bottle cap in the dirt, explaining that he knew the group that handed out orange juice with just that color bottle cap. That piece of plastic on the ground was litter—but it was more than that too. It marked a place where someone had received help.

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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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