These are all of the law enforcement and corrections bills proposed in the 2020 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

HB20-1019 Prison Population Reduction And Management (Gonzales (D)) [Herod (D)]

From the Prison Population Management Interim Study Committee.

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

PASSED

Appropriations: $250,000
Fiscal Impact: Unknown. Fully operating Centennial south campus would cost around $41 million, but of course some of that would come from not paying to house inmates elsewhere and the bill does not require the state to do this. Legislative council could not estimate impact of reduced escape charges on costs of running prisons.

Goal: Utilize the potential capacity of an empty public state prison while exploring how the state might be able to transition away from using private prisons and lessen prison usage for minor abscondtion.

Description:

  • Allows the department of corrections to start using the Centennial south campus prison for close custody inmates when it is ready to house them by taking one prisoner from a private prison facility until the Centennial south campus prison is full. Changes the requirement for housing prisoners from other states at private prisons from approval of executive director that cannot be reasonably withheld to need to protect public safety. Requires the department to study how if it should to end the use of private prisons by 2025 in a responsible way future prison bed needs in Colorado including impacts on local communities where the private prisons are housed, any resulting capacity problems including the possibility of acquiring the private prison facilities, analysis of risk of releasing low risk sex offenders and best-practices for successful reintegration which would lead to lower capacity needs. Must be part of the department’s budget presentation for its next fiscal year. Sets several safety requirements prior to receiving prisoners from other states, including adequate staffing levels, appropriate custody level required for prisoner, no co-mingling of people from multiple states at private prisons, appropriate insurance, indemnification for Colorado, joint liability for any problems the inmate causes, and adequate health coverage plans. State sending inmate is responsible for any monitoring at a private facility. Requires state to set requirements for receiving prisoners from other states safely. State can revoke approval if any of these conditions are not met with 60 day notice.
  • Bill also makes it easier for inmates to earn early release through their actions in jail, guarantees a hearing for anyone terminated from a community corrections program and slated for imprisonment, and creates a new penalty of absconding unauthorized absence for those in a community corrections program if they cannot be located by the people responsible for their supervision (previously was a felony escape crime). Absconding if the individual is in community corrections for violence is a class 6 felony, while an attempt is a class 1 misdemeanor. All other crimes is a class 3 misdemeanor (success or just attempt), except someone who violates a temporary restraining order while absent. This is class 3 felony.
  • All escape felony levels are lowered: from class 2 to class 4 for someone in prison for a class 1 or 2 felony and from class 3 to class 4 for other original felony charges

Additional Information:

Inmates can earn time toward early release for exemplary leadership through mentoring, community service, and distinguished actions benefiting the health, safety, environment, and culture for staff and other inmates. Study must include input from local communities and other interested parties including county commissioners in which the prisons are located, public safety experts, victim's advocates, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and community reentry providers.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We should not allow the profit motive into imprisoning citizens. Businesses that want to make as much money as possible for running prisons need two things: more customers which means more prisoners and lower costs, which means spending less on services. Private prisons are a for-profit operation that manage to cost less to the state than public prisons. How could this be, since the public does not need to profit? Because private prisons cut corners to lower costs. National studies have shown that recidivism rates in private prisons are higher, in part because of lack of rehabilitation programs available to inmates. For example, one of the private prisons in Colorado currently houses 600 sex offenders but offers zero classes or treatment programs. Offenders must be transferred somewhere else if they want treatment. Colorado is in the bottom ten of states for recidivism, with a 50% percentage as opposed to the national average of 39%. Safety can also be a concern, as that is another place where these prisons can cut corners. Beyond these problems, this industry is also waning as our nationwide trend to greater imprisonment also wanes. In addition to multiple states doing various levels of bans on private prisons, many banks are bailing on funding them, and the companies themselves are moving to diversify their holdings. One of the three private prisons in the state just abruptly closed with 60-day notice, leaving the state in the lurch for housing 642 inmates and 180 employees out of work. Waiting for the rug to get pulled out from underneath us in other private facilities could cause serious problems if private prisons close suddenly, leaving communities dependent on them in the lurch, rather than planning ahead as this bill would do. The bill itself does not close any prisons. It explores how we could do it, if we decide we want to, and utilizes the open space we have in a currently vacant public prison. For the other parts of the bill, we are overloading prisons with “escape” attempt charges that are about people walking out of half-way houses or taking off ankle bracelets in association with substance abuse. The bill makes a more appropriate penalty to fit the scope of the crime, won’t help people with substance abuse issues, and is more costly to the state by taking up a prison bed.

Arguments Against:

There is no evidence that recidivism rates at private prisons in Colorado are higher than public prisons (we do not have the data for private prisons). These prisons save state taxpayers $40 an inmate and house nearly 4,000 of the state’s 20,000 inmates at three different facilities (or did, now it will be nearly 2,300 people at two facilities). The communities around these facilities are highly dependent on them economically, one of them literally pays half of the property tax in its county. As for the future of the industry, it is not the job of the government to predict the future, decide an industry is doomed, and then destroy it. And while the bill does not destroy private prisons, it certainly sets a boulder rolling down a hill to do so, including siphoning off prisoners to house in the currently empty public prison. We are already seeing the results with the abrupt closure of one of the state’s three private prisons due to saber-rattling like this bill and the proposed budget of Governor Polis (which would have closed the facility). The other two are likely to see the writing on the wall and follow suit. This is it, if we want to keep private prisons in Colorado we cannot keep going down this path. It is not too late to reverse course.


This bill has been gutted to just become a study of prison populations in general. The time to act is now. Economic conditions in the places in the state that rely on private prisons will not magically diversify in a year or two. We should not allow the profit motive into imprisoning citizens. Businesses that want to make as much money as possible for running prisons need two things: more customers which means more prisoners and lower costs, which means spending less on services. Private prisons are a for-profit operation that manage to cost less to the state than public prisons. How could this be, since the public does not need to profit? Because private prisons cut corners to lower costs. National studies have shown that recidivism rates in private prisons are higher, in part because of lack of rehabilitation programs available to inmates. For example, one of the private prisons in Colorado currently houses 600 sex offenders but offers zero classes or treatment programs. Offenders must be transferred somewhere else if they want treatment. Colorado is in the bottom ten of states for recidivism, with a 50% percentage as opposed to the national average of 39%. Safety can also be a concern, as that is another place where these prisons can cut corners.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1019

HB20-1027 Colorado State Patrol Port Of Entry Direct Traffic (Cooke (R)) [Catlin (R), Esgar (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Have port of entry officers direct traffic in addition to their other duties.

Description:

Adds directing traffic to the duties of port of entry officers.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Ports of entry can get hectic at times and it makes sense to have the officers already on the scene and trained in traffic management to help out.

Arguments Against:

Port of entry officers are there to a job, not to direct traffic. We should not distract them from their primary duties.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1027

HB20-1106 Limit Public Inspection Of Internal Affairs Report [Williams (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Restrict access to internal investigation files of police officers who were exonerated for conduct involving the public except in limited circumstances.

Description:

Currently the completed internal investigation file of a police officer for in-uniform or on-duty conduct involving a member of the public is subject to an open records request, with some exceptions and ability for redactions. This bill makes the internal file of a completed investigation, including any appeals processes, where the officer was exonerated exempt from open records requests. Instead someone wanting access must prove to a court that they are either a party to the investigation or the complainant, or a person with a viable interest in the investigation with a compelling interest to access the file. Also allows agency complying with an open records request or court ordered transfer of the file to charge the requestor a reasonable fee for time and any associated costs.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

If an officer is exonerated, then we should not allow anyone to come along and look at the entire case file. Part of the premise of allowing these open records requests is to prevent bad apples from shuffling around in our police system in a manner that keeps them unaccountable to the public. If we exonerate someone we are saying they did not do anything wrong and it would be unfair to them to still treat them like a criminal. But of course the person who made the complaint or anyone else who can demonstrate a compelling interest in seeing the file can do so through our court process. This will allow for closer inspection of cases where it is possible the internal investigation got things wrong.

Arguments Against:

In essence this guts the ability for the public to access these internal investigation files. The basic facts about police investigations are still the same. The police investigates itself and decides on its own internal punishment. A huge part of this law is letting the public obtain the results of an investigation as a check on the police, so someone is watching the people empowered with awesome responsibilities in our society. Exoneration in these cases isn’t like someone had a jury trial in court. It was the police deciding that one of their own did nothing that warrants punishment. If the internal investigation shows that this was in fact true, then no one has to worry about the public gaining access to the file.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1106

HB20-1188 Persons Who Illegally Reentered The United States [Williams (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Require state law enforcement to cooperate with civil immigration detention requests and notify federal authorities when someone on such a request is to be released, with civil liability possible if they do not and the person in question commits a crime.

Description:

Requires state law enforcement to notify federal immigration and customs enforcement officials (ICE) if they have someone in their custody who has a civil immigration detention request and who was previously deported, convicted of improper entry in the US, or convicted of a state felony. Law enforcement must inform ICE of the timing of the individual’s release from custody and detain the individual if ICE requests. They do not have to be detained for longer than 48 hours after being eligible for release, but it is up to local law enforcement.

Anyone who suffers property damage or injury, including death, from an individual who was released without the proper notification listed above may sue the employing agency of the law enforcement officers who failed to comply. This is a civil action that requires a criminal conviction for the crime that caused the damage or injury. Property damage has maximum damages of $350,000 for one harmed individual and $900,000 for multiple harmed individuals, and personal injury has maximum of $700,000 for one harmed individual and $1.9 million for multiple harmed individuals. Secretary of state must annually adjust these amounts in the same manner as adjustments are made to damages in the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Colorado is currently a sanctuary state, Immigration is handled by the federal government, not by the states. The state cannot refuse to participate in the immigration policies of the federal government because it does not like them. This would be just as true of a state trying to deport people against the wishes of the federal government. It is also a crime to be in this country illegally. We have a whole set of laws relating to people who actively aide criminals, and the bill passed last year that this bill undoes in effect makes the entire state of Colorado an accessory. Just last year a woman was killed in a hit-and-run accident by a man who had been deported at least six times. This bill could give families like hers redress against state agencies who do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Our status as a sanctuary state might also make Colorado a magnet for people who are in the country illegally, increasing the number of illegal residents in the state and increasing the burden on social services agencies.

Arguments Against:

When illegal residents or families with illegal residents fear going to hospitals or police, everyone’s public safety suffers as crimes go unreported and injuries and illness go untreated at earlier stages. When illegal residents or families with illegal residents fear sending a child to school, the state suffers. There is already a large backlog of immigration deportation cases and federal agents are already supposed to prioritize illegals who commit crimes over others. So-called sanctuary cities do not protect illegals who commit crimes, so not turning people over to the federal government isn’t materially affecting the immigration system in this country. Federal immigration enforcement is not the job of the state of Colorado and we should not be using our resources to do it. Furthermore, the near unanimous finding of peer reviewed evidence is that immigrants and immigrant communities (where those who are here illegally mostly reside) commit fewer crimes and have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. This includes studies that have attempted to isolate only those here illegally. The Koch Brothers founded Cato Institute says as much. Obviously there are people who commit crimes in any population group, but we don’t say that we would be safer if we got rid of the entire group. So it is with people who are here illegally, if we could waive a wand and get rid of every last one of them tomorrow that would not make our state safer.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1188

HB20-1228 Protect Survivors' Rights To Rape Kit Evidence (Danielson (D)) [Froelich (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED HOUSE

Appropriation: $44,200
Fiscal Impact: Not estimated to build the system

Goal: Create a tracking system for medical evidence collected in alleged sexual assault cases, give victims the ability to track their evidence, and keep evidence until the statute of limitations expires while giving the victim the opportunity to request keeping it for longer.

Description:

Requires the state to research options for creating a tracking system for medical evidence collected in alleged sexual assault cases (such as rape kits). System must track location, lab submission status, completion of forensic testing, and storage of forensic evidence. Committee created by bill is to study matter. Report due to legislature by December 2020 2021. State must then develop guidelines for implementing the system with secure electronic access that allows the alleged victim or their designee to access or retrieve information so long as the disclosure does not compromise an ongoing investigation or reveal the alleged victim’s location. State must also develop a plan for safeguarding confidentiality and limited disclosure of system information. Evidence must be kept for the duration of the statute of limitations for the alleged crime. Cannot destroy this evidence without informing the alleged victim, who then has 60 days to object. If they object, the evidence must be kept for another 10 years. Also requires licensed doctors or nurses who collect medical evidence in alleged sexual assault cases to inform the patient of the contact information for the nearest sexual assault victim’s advocate and that any evidence collected will be kept until after the statute of limitations runs out and that the victim must be notified prior to its destruction.

Additional Information:

As part of its research state must investigate money, resources, and training needed to create, manage, and maintain the tracking system. This must include impacts on financial ability to test kits. It must also look into public and private sources of funding, recommend any changes to law or policy required., and consult with representatives of law enforcement, district attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, and statewide organizations representing victims of sexual assault. Must also see if the current sexual assault victim emergency payment program is sufficient to meet statewide forensic exam needs, if victims are receiving medical bills in violation of federal law, if law enforcement is testing kits within 21 days as required, and if victims are being encouraged to decline a medical exam because law enforcement cannot pay associated costs. Committe must include key stakeholders, including representatives of law enforcement, district attorneys, medical professionals, and statewide organizations representing victims of sexual assault.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Direct DNA evidence is one of the most powerful tools in prosecuting sexual assault cases. When we have this evidence, it must be kept even if the victim decides not to press charges at this time. Because that victim may change their mind. And in that case, if the statute of limitations has not expired, then the victim has the right to press charges. Sadly it is also true that sometimes these kits aren’t even tested before they are destroyed, sometimes because the police don’t believe there was a case or make the determination that there was no crime. Think about that, the evidence didn’t even get tested. It is also much harder to track this evidence if you do not have a system like this. The recommended best practices for this from the federal department of justice are: to at a minimum keep this evidence for the length of the statute of limitations, to inform the victim prior to destroying evidence, and to allow the victim to object and then honor that objection. Just like this bill does. There is also evidence that just being able to track the status of their kit helps victims heal. The evidence can be used in other cases to prove patterns, unless of course it is destroyed. So there can be benefit to keeping it if the victim wants. Multiple other states have similar systems and it is time to bring it to Colorado.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1228

HB20-1229 Peace Officers Standards and Training Board Scholarship Rural And Small Law Enforcement (Cooke (R)) [Buentello (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED HOUSE AND SENATE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow the police officers standards and training board to use its existing cash fund for scholarships for officer candidates from jurisdictions with limited resources to attend approved training academies.

Description:

Authorizes the police officers standards and training board to establish a scholarship program for law enforcement agencies in rural and smaller jurisdictions with limited resources for assistance with paying tuition costs for police officer candidates to attend an approved basic law enforcement training academy. If someone receives tuition assistance but then does not take a position within five years is not employed by a small or rural jurisdiction for at least three years after attending a basic law enforcement academy, they must repay the board.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Training is incredibly important for ensuring that police officers are ready to encounter the myriad of different situations waiting for them on the job. Well-trained officers are more likely to only use force when absolutely necessary, more likely to be able to de-escalate difficult situations, and more likely to be able to keep themselves and their fellow officers safe. But many districts in the state don’t have the resources to send a candidate to an approved training academy and the standards and training board, although it does have a cash fund to use for distributing grants for training, is not authorized to help in this specific manner. It can only provide grants to fund the programs themselves. This bill simply provides the board with the authorization.

Arguments Against:

If we really feel strongly about this we should provide some state funds to help bolster this effort. Because without any change in the funding of the cash fund the board uses, this is going to compete with other efforts for the same amount of money.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1229

HB20-1234 Peace Officer Status For Certain DOR Department of Revenue Employees (Fields (D)) [D. Valdez (D), Liston (R)]

PASSED HOUSE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Make motor vehicle investigators and criminal tax enforcement specialists peace officers and thus require certification from the peace officers standards and training board.

Description:

Specifies that motor vehicle investigators and criminal tax enforcement specialists are peace officers and must be certified by the peace officers standards and training board.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This doesn’t affect many people, but it is a common sense change. These are agents of the government that enforce our laws. As such, they are police officers and need the same certification and training we require of all police officers.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1234

HB20-1267 Transparency Of Telecommunications Providers Correctional Facilities (Gonzales (D)) [Tipper (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED HOUSE

Appropriation: $13,347
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Requires all telecommunications providers for jails to keep detailed records of their charges to these jails and submit this information quarterly to the state.

Description:

Requires all telecommunications providers for jails to keep detailed records of their charges to these jails and submit this information quarterly to the state. This includes: total number of calls and minutes from jail, revenue collected for services provided, summary of all other financial remuneration or gift or exchange or fee received for providing these services, all rates and fees charged, and copies of the contract with the jail and the company’s unclaimed funds policy. Rates must include in- and out-of-state charges for first minute and for subsequent minutes. Fees must include any applicable fees for making a call, depositing money into the incarcerated person’s telecommunication account, any fees associated with the account, for receiving a refund, for receiving a paper bill, or for using a third-party company to make payments. If any of this information has not changed since the previous quarter, the telecommunications company doesn’t have to provide it again. Underlying telecommunications providers that just connect the wires do not have to report any information, just the directly contracted entities. State must publish this information on its website in a format accessible to the public within 30 days of receipt.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The simple fact is that we are fleecing inmates and their families for doing something that has become dirt cheap for the rest of us: making a phone call. The prison phone industry has become a $1.2 billion behemoth and it just isn’t right. And this is about more than just money, numerous studies have shown that family contact and communication reduces likelihood the offender will commit additional crimes when released. This sad reality exists because there is an extreme monopoly in this industry, in Colorado one company contracts for the entire state. Prisoners here are at least charged a reasonable amount, $0.12 a minute, and there are no kickbacks to prisons (instead the state receives $800,000 a year to let the company operate the program). But we need to see under the hood to understand exactly how this company is profiting (and they most certainly are) off our prisoners to see what further reforms may be needed, particularly in the area of fees charged just for using aspects of the program.

Arguments Against:

We have to use specialized phone companies for these services because this isn’t like someone sitting in their living room calling their mother. Calls are recorded and this surveillance gives the state assurances that people who are literally in jail for committing crimes are not plotting new ones or finding ways around prison rules around banned items like drugs. If we don’t like policies the company we contract with are using, then we should negotiate that into the contract. But opening up their business for the public to see online isn’t the way to build a partnership that will last.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1267

HB20-1282 Radio Communications Policies Of Gov Entities [Van Winkle (R), Melton (D]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $500,000 just in first year

Goal: Require any government entity that encrypts its radio commissions to set a policy that allows the media to access the unencrypted transmission and consider allowing the public access via some alternative method.

Description:

Requires any government entity that encrypts its radio commissions to set a policy that allows the media to access the unencrypted transmission and must consider allowing access to the general public via alternative means that balances the public interest in the information with safety of law enforcement officers. This could be online transmission that is delayed or other real-time transmission. It must also have standards that prevent the entity from imposing unreasonable and burdensome limitations on access to and use of its radio communications. Entities must seek input from Colorado-based media members and establish a mechanism for receiving feedback, including at least one public meeting, prior to enacting an encryption policy. Any entity currently encrypting its transmissions has until the end of the year to set a policy.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Historically these types of radio communications have been available to the public, and the news media in particular has relied on them for reporting leads. Advances in technology have eroded this setup. The government should function in an open manner whenever possible and this bill protects against legitimate needs to encrypt communications. Most government entities already have different channels for different functions, so it should be easy for them to keep encrypted certain more sensitive channels while allowing some form of access for the public to others. This isn’t about listening in to tactical operations, it’s about the historically used method of listening in to dispatch.

Arguments Against:

Technology cuts both ways. You can now download free scanner apps on your phone, and the Pueblo police cited specific examples of criminals using apps to evade police in vehicular pursuits and avoid officers altogether when it announced it was encrypting its radio communications three years ago. Previous versions of this bill have exempted tactical or investigative operations but this bill does not, which would allow media members to argue they should be allowed to listen in, despite other parts of the bill that speak to balancing public interest with law enforcement safety. Media members can also get in the way of law enforcement if they are racing them to the scene. We need to let the police do their jobs before we worry about who else should be listening in. A similar bill last year had a potential implementation price tag of over $2 million in radio reprogramming. We can better spend our money elsewhere.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1282

SB20-037 Trusted Interoperability Platform Advisory Committee (Rodriguez (D), Fields (D)) [Singer (D)]

From the Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Develop a strategic plan to create an interoperability platform that allows the secure exchange of information among the criminal and juvenile justice systems and community health agencies.

Description:

Creates the Trusted Interoperability Platform Advisory Committee to develop a strategic plan to implement an interoperability platform that allows secure exchanges of information among the criminal and juvenile justice systems and community health agencies. Committee must meet at least four times a year and deliver an initial plan no later than April 2021 and a final plan no later than August 2021. Plan must allow agencies to exchange legally authorized and secure information to improve the management and care of individuals served by their systems while complying with all applicable privacy laws, using appropriate security to ensure only the correct individuals have access to information and allow continuous monitoring of system usage, and allow each agency to retain its own computer systems. Must also make de-identified data available for research analysis.

Additional Information:

Committee consists of the following members:

  • Executive director of department of public safety (chair)
  • Executive director of department of corrections
  • Executive director of department of human services
  • Chief information officer of the office of information technology
  • Director of the division of youth services
  • State court administrator
  • Five members appointed by executive director of department of public safety: one county sheriff, one member of a non-profit representing network of community behavioral health providers, one member representing the Colorado integrated criminal justice information system and two members representing a health information exchange


Auto-Repeal: October 2021

Arguments For:

On average there are 10,000 people with behavioral health disorders in prison and around 43,000 released each year involving people with behavioral health disorders. Our current system is extremely inefficient, leading to gaps in care, where intake must be done each time someone enters the system or exits and enters community care and there can be too long a period of catch-up on the exact state of an individual’s mental health. Better care when someone enters prison and when they are released could lead to cost savings both in-prison due to fewer high level interventions required and lower recidivism. We need a group to go deep into this because we need to get a better handle on precisely what is required to make this work and exactly what it will cost. Getting all of the various stakeholders together will also make eventual implementation work better.

Arguments Against:

The state already has the authority to create this interoperability system and this problem has been worked on for several years with money already spent, we don’t need another group to spend more time coming up with a full plan. It is also unclear as to how this is going to actually get implemented once the study is done since no state agency is given ownership over implementation, which of course is going to cost money.


Interoperability projects are notoriously difficult, particularly if you are not going to require anything from the underlying systems. You can spend time (and money) building something that connects various different systems and then one of the entities goes and changes their own system, which could mess everything up. We need to require some underlying fealty to some sort of common system rather than just promising we will make whatever work.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-037

SB20-042 Extend Committee Treatment Persons In Criminal And Juvenile Justice Systems (Rodriguez (D), Fields (D)) [Singer (D)]

From the Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED SENATE

Appropriation: $8,698
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal: Extend this committee and expand its scope to include behavioral health.

Description:

Extends the Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems and expands its scope, changing its name to Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Behavioral Health Disorders. Extension is through June 2023. Accompanying task force membership is tweaked slightly, provided more legislative staff support, and has its aims shifted to move away from tasks already completed to new ones based on prevention of criminal activity by those with behavioral health issues.

Additional Information:

Task force composition changes are:

  • Reduction from 32 members to 28
    • Two fewer members appointed by chief justice of state Supreme Court to represent judicial department, with just one needing to be from department of probation
    • One fewer member representing department of corrections, with no requirement to represent division of parole
    • Two fewer members representing department of human services, with no one representing mental health planning and advisory committee or state mental health institute at Pueblo
    • One additional member representing a non-profit that works on statewide legislation and organizing Coloradans to promote behavioral, mental, and physical health needs
  • Two members of law enforcement now must be one representing police officers and one sheriff departments, as opposed to previous requirement of one in active service and one with expertise dealing with juveniles

Task force scope changes are:

  • Focus on prevention or continued involvement with criminal or juvenile justice systems
  • Focus on early identification and intervention strategies for individuals at a higher risk of involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system due to behavioral health issues
  • Promotion of resilience and health for people already experiencing involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system due to behavioral health issues
  • Diversion from initial or continued involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system for those with behavioral health issues
  • Removing housing for people with mental health disorders after their release
  • Removing medication consistency, deliverability, and availability
  • Removing awareness of and training for enhanced staff safety
  • Removing enhanced data collection

Auto-Repeal: June 2023

Arguments For:

People with behavioral health disorders are disproportionately represented in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Data indicates that one out of every three men and four out of every five women imprisoned in Colorado have a moderate to severe mental health disorder. We need to continue to attack this critical problem with solutions that aim more at prevention altogether: earlier interventions and diversion.

Arguments Against:

It is too early to declare victory on the issues the committee was initially tasked with exploring: there are bills in this same session on these topics but they have not become law yet and we should study their effects if they do.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-042

SB20-060 Criminal Justice System Operational Processes Study (Gonzales (D), Rodriguez (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

From the Prison Population Management Interim Study Committee

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $1.05 million over 2 years required to complete study

Goal: Study how people move through the criminal justice system in its entirety and how data is collected and shared through the process.

Description:

Requires the department of corrections to conduct a study to examine how individuals proceed through the various stages of criminal proceedings, with emphasis on the data being collected and shared across agencies. Study is to look for best practices implemented in Colorado and other states for creating more efficient operational and technological systems and procedures. State is to contract with an entity to assist in conducting the study, gathering information, analyzing the data, and producing a report. Department must submit a report to the legislature by the end of the year.

Additional Information:

Study must look at:

  • Analysis of the modern information system technologies and design principles used in the various stages of criminal proceedings including service-oriented architecture used and integrated databases and data services used
  • Organizational matrix of processes, personnel structures, and technology structures used in various stages of criminal proceedings
  • Diagram of criminal proceedings, including details on the options available to people at various stages of criminal proceedings
  • Analysis of model-based systems engineering used in criminal proceedings that illustrate existing organizational relationships, information systems, processes and analyze these for inefficiencies


Auto-Repeal: July 2021

Arguments For:

Different pieces of the criminal justice system collect and interpret data in different ways. We need a better understanding of how people move through the criminal justice system and the ways in which various elements interact with these people so we can understand what needs to be fixed. Different agencies are clearly not communicating with each other and we actually don’t know the full depths of how much information is being collected but then not tracked and shared through the entire process. This study will enable us to understand the entire issue and understand where we can improve the process and analyzing anything this complex requires expertise.

Arguments Against:

It seems like a bit of overkill to bring in an outside consultant rather than simply bringing these various departments together via a task force style group that is not paid. We can get a similar deep dive into the process without hiring an outside expert.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-060

SB20-079 Method Of Notifying People Of Amber Alerts (Fields (D), Hisey (R)) [D. Valdez (D), Beckman (R)] TECHNICAL BILL

PASSED

Description:

Changes the method of sending amber alerts from utilizing the FCC’s designated state emergency alert broadcaster (currently KOA radio) to require utilizing technological applications that promote the largest reach of community notifications which allows the state to continue using a program called Alert Sense, which it started using in February 2018 to support wireless alerts.

SB20-085 Sex Offender Community Corrections Requirements (Zenzinger (D), Gardner (R)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Soper (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED SENATE AND HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Keep sex offenders who are not ready to be out of prison out of community corrections facilities.

Description:

Bans the department of corrections from sending offender convicted under the Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act to community corrections unless the offender has progressed successfully in treatment and would not pose an undue threat to the community in a community corrections facility and there is a strong and reasonable probability the offender would not violate the law. Department of corrections must consider the criteria established by the sex offender management board and any other relevant factors.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The department of corrections is considering transferring some sex offenders who are in private prisons into community corrections as part of the fall-out of one private prison closing and others under threat of similar action. This is part of their attempt to find beds to house everyone, but anyone who is in prison for a sex offense has committed a serious crime and as a state we already recognize that sexual offenders are one of the most dangerous and most likely to reoffend prison populations (thus the lifetime supervision). So we need to make triple-sure we are OK with sending someone to community corrections under these circumstances.

Arguments Against:

Instead of worrying about community corrections for those who don’t warrant it, let’s slam the brakes and reverse course on shutting down private prisons so we can safely house those who require it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-085

SB20-090 Limit Liability For Food Donations To Nonprofits (Winter (D)) [Esgar (D), Titone (D)]

AMENDED: Significant

PASSED SENATE AND HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Give correctional facilities , schools, and hospitals same limited liability for donating food that multiple other organizations already have.

Description:

Currently farmers, food retailers, food processors, food distributers and wholesalers, and food retail establishments all enjoy limited liability from any civil or criminal resulting from their condition of their donated food so long as willful, wanton, or reckless acts. This bill adds the same liability for correctional facilities and and schools andencourages all to donate apparently wholesome food to one or more local non-profits for distribution to needy or poor individuals.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Many correctional facilities have programs for growing and producing food and it makes sense for them to donate to non-profits but we need to extend the same legal protections to them so they won’t get into legal trouble if some of the food is accidentally not fit. This should encourage even more of these programs in the state. It also makes sense to extend this same protection to schools. We should give as much encouragement as we can give to food donation without compromising safety.

Arguments Against:

Donated food to non-profits shouldn’t be dregs that may or may not be fit to eat. Encouraging organizations to donate wholesome food is nice, requiring it for fear of prosecution is much better.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-090

SB20-104 Powers Of Bureau Of Animal Protection Agents (Cooke (R)) [Roberts (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED SENATE

Appropriation: $13,218
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal: Give bureau of animal protection agents investigative power and the ability to remove animals that they believe are either victims of cruelty or dangerous.

Description:

Gives bureau of animal protection agents power to conduct investigations, to take possession of and impound any animal the agent has probable cause to believe is a victim of cruelty, and to take possession of and impound a dog if the agent believes the dog is dangerous.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

These agents are highly trained officers who are skilled in responding to cases of animal cruelty and neglect. Many law enforcement agencies in the state rely on their expertise to assist in inspecting animal cruelty and neglect inquiries, but these agents do not have the statutory authority to do investigations on their own. And so not all cases of animal cruelty and neglect are being fully investigated. This bill gives these agents the power to carry out their jobs: protecting animals from crueltyand the public from dangerous dogs. We have some of the most robust animal protection laws in the country—we just need the ability to enforce them fully.

Arguments Against:

Investigations are one thing but when it comes to taking an animal away there should be some additional oversight and not just one officer making that decision on their own.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-104

SB20-169 Housing Mentors In Youthful Offender Facility (Gonzales (D))

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED SENATE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow inmates over 24 years-old to be housed in facilities with youthful offender program inmates so long as it is to facilitate participation in a program to mentor youth offenders.

Description:

Allows offenders sentenced to the youthful offender program to be housed in facilities with inmates over 24 years-old who are not in the program if the purpose is facilitate participation in a program to mentor youth offenders approved by the department of corrections. This must still be in a youthful offender facility. The over 24-year-olds must not be on close custody level or higher supervision and cannot have a sex offense conviction.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We have a mentor program to help youthful offenders (under 24 year-old adults) but it is hard to have true mentorship if the older inmates who are supposed to be the mentors are not in the same facility. Obviously we do not want to put the youthful offenders into the main facility, so it makes sense to do things the other way round. This type of mentoring not only helps the youthful offender but it also helps the mentor build toward a successful post-release life.

Arguments Against:

Better to err on the side of caution and use released ex-inmates who have clearly turned their lives around than someone who is still in prison and could still return to a life of crime upon release. Obviously the mentor program is screened to try to avoid this situation, but putting an older inmate in with all of these impressionable youth could cause a lot of damage if the older inmate is not truly sincere.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-169

SB20-180 Dyslexia Education In Criminal And Juvenile Justice System (Winter (D), Gonzales (D))

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Screen all offenders in both the department of corrections and the department of youth services for dyslexia and provide dyslexia-specific education services to offenders that need it.

Description:

Requires the state department of corrections and department of youth services to screen offenders for dyslexia, using an intake questionnaire, the results of a literacy test, and an evidenced-based quantitative assessment tool. State can adapt this same screening process to meet needs of screening juveniles. Everyone in state custody must have received a screening by February 2023, with the state working in reverse chronological order to release dates.

State must develop an evidenced-based structured reading literacy instruction program that uses explicit, systematic, and cumulative principles for any person in state correctional facilities that has dyslexia. The program must be designed specifically for people with dyslexia and be taught by educators who have been trained in methods used to identify and remediate dyslexia. Participation in these courses counts toward requirements to complete sequential course work for those who lack basic literacy skills (law currently requires they must take literacy courses and pass a competency test). State institutional libraries must provide audio books and read aloud books with highlighted text services.

State must enter into an agreement with a literacy consultant to assist in developing the screening and education programs. Consultant must have experience with dyslexia identification and remediation and must be approved by the department of education as an early literacy grant program implementation consultant.

State must report annually on program to legislature.

Additional Information:

The intake questionnaire must ask about the reading habits of the offender and their biological family. The assessment tool must have proven psychometrics for validity and must include the following subjects: phonological and phonemic awareness, sound symbol recognition, alphabet knowledge, decoding skills, rapid naming, encoding skills, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Both the questionnaire and assessment must be administered by an educator trained to identify and provide intervention to someone who may have dyslexia.

Instruction for offenders must include: elements of phonology, sound-symbol association, syllable instruction, morphology, syntax, and semantics. It must meet the standards of the reading instruction program described in the Colorado READ act. Educators in this program must be trained in: identification of dyslexia, fundamentals of reading, methods of instruction in structured literacy, and the structured curriculum used by this program. The fundamentals of reading training must include an intensive, sequential, phonics-based system of human language and a multisensory, structured, sequential, and cumulative understanding of the linguistic rules.

Report to legislature must include:

  • List of screening tools
  • Number of offenders screened in prior year and number identified as potentially having dyslexia
  • List of specific education curriculum
  • Number of minutes of instruction, report on current literacy proficiency and growth, and English language proficiency and adult basic education test results for each person receiving instruction under the program
  • Number of people who have successfully completed the program
  • Summary of the results of any evaluation of the education and training programs
  • Title of any professional development course offered to train educators in this program, the number of educators receiving the training, and the cost
  • Summary of services provided by literacy consultant, number of hours worked, and costs paid to the consultant


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Research has indicated that the prevalence of dyslexia in the prison population is roughly double that of the general population, but we don’t really know for sure (because of course we are not screening for it). This is not a surprising finding, as dyslexia makes it difficult to read, which in turns makes it extremely difficult to succeed in school, which in turn makes it extremely difficult to succeed in the workforce. It also can be a negative factor in someone’s personal sense of self: shame and low self-esteem are not uncommon for people with dyslexia, in particular untreated or unidentified dyslexia who have never really learned to read. We currently mandate that offenders are taught basic literacy if we find their skills lacking, but that is just a recipe for additional failure for those with dyslexia. We instead need specialized screening and education programs to ensure that all of these people get the chance they deserve at achieving basic literacy skills so that when they are released, they have a real shot at reintegrating back into society. And that of course is the ultimate goal of our prison programs: rehabilitation. A study by the Rand Corporation found that prisoners who participated in education programs were 43% less likely to commit future crimes. The federal government is now screening for dyslexia in federal prisons, thanks to a bill passed last year. It is time we do the same.

Arguments Against:

This is somewhat of a Cadillac program, in terms of its training requirements, hiring an outside consultant, and the thoroughness of the screening program. Cadillacs are great of course, but sometimes it pays to be more budget-conscious and just get a car that gets you where you need to go. Instead of paying a consultant, the state can convene an unpaid advisory group of experts. Instead of requiring such vigorous assessment tool administered by a trained educator, we can try to find an existing tool that will suit our purposes. And we should try to find existing educators who will not require further training to administer the program.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB180

SB20-187 DYS Therapeutic Group Treatment Pilot Program (Lee (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $300,000 over next two years

Goal: Reverse a decision last year to expand a pilot program in the department of youth services, going back to the original one location with a final report due by October 2021.

Description:

Reverses a bill from last year that expanded a pilot program to two locations in the department of youth services to test the efficacy of a therapeutic group-treatment approach without seclusion or mechanical restraints other than handcuffs. Removes one of the two independent contractors and subsequent reports, going down to a sole report to evaluate the program. Timing of the report is unchanged, by October 2021.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Sometimes you reach a little too far too fast and that is what happened here. The second location chosen last year wasn’t ready to implement this pilot so pulling back now and getting ready for the final evaluation is appropriate.

Arguments Against:

Any troubles at this second location should be included in the final report on this pilot program but this bill would seem to remove that second location from any evaluation.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB187