Felony arrests are up 50% across Colorado in the past five years, and Colorado prosecutors are pointing toward criminal justice reform and soft sentencing as the reason. The exact cause of the uptick in felony arrests is unknown though state officials are already attempting to address the reasons.
Colorado’s District Attorney’s Council has pointed out the rise in arrests to Governor John Hickenlooper’s office and asked for their governor’s help in pouring over the arrest statistics. The Council has also reached out to district attorneys across the state for more information on their felony convictions and filings. The Council intends to use the information to address criminal justice reform in the state.
Several lawmakers including Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud and Democrat Daniel Kagan of Arapahoe County seek to overhaul the sentencing guidelines for habitual offenders and sex crime offenders to allow the judge more control over their sentencing. Lundberg is a member of Colorado’s influential Joint Budget Committee, and Kagan is a member of the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee.
Several Colorado prosecutors felt Colorado was sending the wrong message in 2013 when drug sentencing became more lenient. In that 2013 law defendants who were convicted of lower-level felony drug possession could have their sentences reduced to misdemeanors upon completion of a parole program. This new law also limited when a judge could sentence someone to prison. District attorneys around the state point to the longer parole periods instead of jail time as permission for offenders to participate in crime without worrying about serious consequences. Other state officials believe the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has ushered in more drug offenders and overall crime.
“There has been a lot of criminal justice reform in the last ten years in Colorado,” said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein. Rubinstein states his office has become overwhelmed by the wave of recent crime. “Sometimes those pushes go too far, and the pendulum needs to swing a little bit back in the other direction. There was needed criminal justice reform, but not everything has to always be about diverting people away from prison.”
Do you think the sudden upswing in felony arrests is due to lenient sentencing or an upswing of drug arrests? Do you think non-violent offenders are better off serving their time in the slammer or should there be programs to set offenders straight that don’t involve lockup? Let us know your opinion in the comments section.