Colorado criminal law analysts and commentators know just as well as their peers across the country what approaches work and what strategies are failing in the justice system.
And they keep shining the spotlight on a particular sentencing outcome that has come in for progressively blistering criticism in recent years. What disturbs then deeply is a default lock-up response that has been prevalent in the United States for decades pursuant to stated War on Crime rationales.
It doesn’t work, they say. And it unfairly ensnares legions of first-time and nonviolent individuals charged with relatively low-level offenses right along with violent and repeat offenders.
That needs to change, reformers say. It is a knee-jerk policy that fails far more often than it succeeds, and for multiple reasons.
For starters, it is inordinately pricey, with inmate upkeep costing the public far more than alternative outcomes that keep offenders more closely linked with families and reassimilation opportunities.
And stark and repressive jail/prison environments promote rather than curb recidivism. Many convicted offenders need treatment, counseling, educational opportunities, employment and community connections to thrive in their post-conviction world. Incarceration has proven time and again that it does not remotely produce that recipe for success. Rather, it flatly undercuts it.
Colorado criminal justice officials, law enforcers, legislators and a broad-based coalition of reformers have banded together to forge meaningful change. Denver and a few other select communities have commenced a new pilot program known in shorthand form as LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion that seeks to dampen recidivism and better encourage offender community reassimilation.
We will take a detailed look at LEAD in an upcoming post.