19 June 2007

Colorado Sentencing Reform: Overview

Colorado's criminal laws are not perfect. The number of people in prison in the state has doubled in the past ten years.

Even more importantly, in my view, the state's criminal code fails to appropriately grade a number of offenses. Relative to the standard set by other offenses in the criminal code, some offenses are graded too seriously relative to the seriousness of the crime, while others are graded to leniently. In my view, too harsh punishments are more common, however.

In the series that follows, I'll review in detail those grading decisions in the state's substantive criminal code that are off and suggest alternatives in various categories.

None of the proposals are decriminalizations. All conduct that is a crime now, remains a crime. The only changes are adjustments in the punishments for the crime.

The prison population breaks down as follows in Colorado by offense:

Prison Population In Colorado By Type of Offense

Homicide 9.5%
Kidnapping 1.8%
Assault (including vehicular assault) 8.4%
Robbery 6.7%
Burglary 7.4%
Theft (including car theft) 9.9%
Trespassing/Vandalism 2.4%
Fraud and Forgery and Embezzlement 1.8%
Arson/Weapons/Explosives 0.7%
Menacing 3.2%
Sex Offenders 11.4%
Child Abuse 2.1%
Drugs 20.3%
Escape/Contraband 6.9%
Traffic 1.0%
Habitual Non-Violent Felon 3.1%
Miscellaneous Non-Violent Crimes 3.3%

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