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Timely, proactive and proven: Colorado's diversion programs

We all know the overriding strategy long employed in the so-called War on Crime against criminal suspects.

Namely, what that has meant in Colorado and nationally is a slammed door in a state or federal penitentiary for a convicted offender. Unquestionably, a go-to and preferred outcome for many defendants -- even those convicted of minor drug offenses who have no prior criminal record or history of violence -- has for decades been a lengthy incarceration term.

Increasingly, the adverse effects of that -- for those locked up, their families and the general public -- have grown manifestly apparent. Rehabilitation is hard to achieve for an individual behind bars. Families are ripped apart by dislocation and stigma. Local communities must eventually deal with released inmates who are often embittered and largely unable to reassimilate into society.

And, of course, state resident pay a hefty bill for what has frequently proven to be a failed experiment.

Consider this jarring statistic, supplied by multiple sources that include the Colorado Department of Corrections: Colorado taxpayers paid a whopping $94 million in a recent year for the upkeep of nonviolent drug offenders locked away in prisons.

Is there a better way?

To be more specific: Is there a strategy that is clearly preferable to a prohibitively costly philosophy that increases rather than dampens recidivism for a large swath of nonviolent individuals?

There certainly seems to be, and it centrally stresses diversion rather than punishment, especially for individuals with drug addictions and/or mental illnesses.

Programs already in place in Denver and elsewhere across Colorado have reaped positive results. We'll spotlight some proven strategies and outcomes in our next blog post.

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