Here’s a workable definition for the expression “fool’s errand:” locking people up in prison or releasing them from incarceration without attendant rehabilitation programs to assist them.
So says Colorado Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs), who has been a long-time advocate for criminal law reforms that make both ethical and fiscal sense.
Lee and others note that failing to prepare offenders with the personal tools they need to succeed in society following completion of their criminal sentences is an ill-considered and expensive omission. An estimated half of all released Colorado prisoners end up back in prison, with 50% of them returning to lock-up status within three years.
Do state legislators fully appreciate that sobering reality? And, if so, are they seriously pushing to make things better?
Yes, and yes, and rather dramatically so. Multiple criminal reform bills are working their way through the Colorado General Assembly. They aggressively promote material changes in things ranging from select felons’ restoration of voting rights to the reclassification of some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
What many people find especially encouraging about the reform tailwinds that are clearly blowing is their bipartisan bent. Legislation is being sponsored on both sides of the political aisle, and sometimes in tandem by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. That new sense of unity and cooperation buoys a widespread optimism that a collective reform push can yield salutary changes across a widespread front.
Few people doubt the need for such a change. Reportedly, next year’s slated budget for the Colorado Department of Corrections is approximately $1 billion.