Keeping people behind bars has an impact well beyond the actual criminal offenders and their loved ones. In fact, every taxpayer in Colorado is giving some of their money to fund public prisons. Specifically, it costs tens of thousands of dollars to keep a single person in jail for one year.
Due to this high cost, Colorado has made a number of moves in the past few years to reduce its prison population. One group of offenders has not been included in these moves, though: sex offenders. This is a huge deal, because sex offenders make up more than 25% of all offenders in Colorado’s prison system.
A recent audit looked at sex offenders who should be able to be released under the law and calculated the cost of keeping them in prison. They came to the total of $44 million a year.
That’s a lot of money. So why are sex offenders being kept in jail when others are going free?
Flaws in Treatment Program Keep Sex Offenders in Prison
Sex offenders who are up for parole must go through a treatment program in order to be released from prison. This program allows efforts to be made to rehabilitate offenders. The point is to reduce the risk of past offenders committing additional crimes when they are released into “the real world.”
Since December 2015, over 1,300 prisoners have reached the point in their sentence where they can begin treatment… but they have yet to receive this treatment. Many of these prisoners are lifetime-supervision offenders. That means if they don’t receive treatment, they can’t be released. They’ll be stuck in prison indefinitely.
Offenders on a fixed sentence have a different problem. Once they finish their sentence, they can be released without any treatment. This means they are being sent back out into society without giving professionals the opportunity to assess them and give them the tools they need to rejoin public life and avoid committing another crime.
In other words, lack of treatment is both keeping some people in prison and making it more likely that others will end up returning to prison later on. Either way, it’s something that is costing us all a pretty penny.
Demand for More Staff
Why are offenders not getting the treatment they need? Many point to the small number of trained professionals available to treat all of the offenders. Colorado is not only experiencing a shortage of sex offender clinician candidates, but also having trouble keeping the professionals that have been hired.
This is not the first time Colorado’s prisons have come under fire for these rehabilitation programs and policies. In 2013, a similar audit was done. It led to 15 more clinicians being hired, but that doesn’t begin to account for the demand.
How This Affects You
While $44 million every year is certainly a lot for Colorado citizens to cover, the people who are hurt the most by these policies are the offenders themselves and their families.
Sex offenders already have a number of hidden penalties and costs that they must deal with as a result of being convicted. Keep in mind that even after you are released from Colorado’s prison system, as a sex offender, you are still bound to the requirements and restrictions of Colorado law and the sex offender registry. If you receive lifetime-supervision status, you’re bound for life.
Now, in addition to this, Colorado prisons are failing to get them the treatment required under the law so that they can be free from incarceration. No one wants to be in prison any longer than they have to – especially if it is due to someone else’s error.
Do not let this happen to you. If you are facing sex charges, fight back with the strongest possible defense strategy to make it more likely that you will avoid conviction or receive the lightest sentence possible.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2016 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.