Colorado may let convicts out early to trim its deficit

Colorado may turn about 1,000 prisoners loose early to trim $42 million from its depression-shrunk state budget.
Criminologists expect a mini-crime wave to result. Maybe, but only those within six months of their normal release date will be set free and those will be monitored: no sex offenders, none convicted of violent crimes.
Following established release patterns, Colorado has had a recidivism rate of between 40 and 50 percent within five years. Cutting back on prison time six months isn’t likely to increase that rate. Perhaps the opposite effect will be the result: six months less time in Colorado’s crime universities (a description that fits most state prisons) may result in fewer crimes rather than more.
The biggest worry is that it will cost the state almost as much to keep a watchful eye on the released felons as keeping them locked up did: The recession that is keeping the state scrambling for operating money continues to kill jobs in Colorado, just as it is in the other 49 states. Freshly released criminals will have a heck of a time finding gainful employment and may feel forced to steal to stay alive if the state doesn’t provide for them.
Of equal concern is the impact on the three large private prisons operating in Colorado. Private prisons must stay full to make their budgets. If too many prisoners are released from the private operations, they will be forced to close and transfer their inmates to the state prisons — which would put the state back to square one.
Another option would be to raise taxes to provide the $42 million. This rather obvious solution to our neighbor’s plight apparently isn’t being considered. Colorado ex-pects to spend $19.2 billion in this fiscal year. It faces a deficit of somewhere in the range of $640 million, but there, as in Kansas, state revenues are finally beginning to climb. Pumping up state revenues between 3 and 4 percent would eliminate the deficit and let Colorado keep its prisons operating according to the law.
Similar math applies to the need Kansas has to keep its public schools first-class — but Kansas lawmakers are similarly math-challenged. Must be a geography thing.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.