Colorado prosecutors filed more than 15,200 felony drug cases in 2017, twice as many as they did in 2012, according to a new report that has prompted renewed calls for sentencing reforms that send low-level drug offenders to treatment rather than prison.

The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition report, released Monday, also found 75 percent of felony drug filings last year were for simple possession. Of those sentenced last year to prison for drug possession, 84 percent were originally charged only with possession. The increase in drug felony filings appears to have a disproportionate impact on women offenders, the report states.

Two Democrats — Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver and Rep. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs — said the report likely would give ammunition to those opposed to efforts by corrections officials to reopen a closed prison in Cañon City. Lee chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

Herod, Lee and Rep. Cole Wist, a Republican of Centennial, are pushing bipartisan legislation this year to encourage using community corrections beds to handle a projected surge in prison populations.

“We have a different path forward that is possible,” Herod said. Community corrections programs, which are used as an alternative to prison incarceration, are better equipped to get offenders drug rehabilitation and mental health services, she said.

Lee said he doubted legislators have “much appetite for increasing the number of prison beds in Colorado.”

“We’re looking at a number of legislative initiatives to deal with prison overcrowding, and we are looking at what’s driving prison incarceration,” he said.

Monday’s report showed legislation signed into law in 2013 that was meant to prioritize treatment for offenders charged with drug possession as opposed to incarceration isn’t working as intended and more reforms are needed, Lee said.

“The 2013 drug sentencing reform legislation was well intentioned, but it clearly has not had that …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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