These are all of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice bills proposed in the 2021 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, 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.

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

HB21-1211 Regulation Of Restrictive Housing In Jails PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1315 Costs Assessed To Juveniles In The Criminal Justice System PASSED AMENDED

MAJOR

HB21-1214 Record Sealing Collateral Consequences Reduction PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1280 Pre-trial Detention Reform PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

HB21-1064 Update Processes Juvenile Sex Offender Registry PASSED
HB21-1078 Release On Bail Violation Of A Protection Order KILLED BY BILL SPONSOR

MINOR+

HB21-1215 Expansion Of Justice Crime Prevention Initiative PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED

MINOR

HB21-1209 Parole Eligibility For Youthful Offenders PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1320 Sunset Sex Offender Management Board PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED

TECHNICAL

Senate

Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

SB21-062 Jail Population Management Tools KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS AMENDED
SB21-273 Pre-trial Reform KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED

MAJOR

SB21-071 Limit The Detention Of Juveniles PASSED AMENDED
SB21-074 Expunge Nonviolent Convictions After Three Years KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

SB21-138 Improve Brain Injury Support In Criminal Justice System PASSED AMENDED

MINOR+

MINOR

SB21-066 Juvenile Diversion Programs SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-153 Department of Corrections Offender Identification Assistance Program SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED

TECHNICAL

SB21-059 Juvenile Justice Code Reorganization SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED

HB21-1064 Update Processes Juvenile Sex Offender Registry (Rodriguez (D)) [Benavidez (D), Amabile (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $7,200
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal:

  • Make it easier for juvenile sex offenses to not require long-term registration on the sex offender registry by recognizing other state decisions to not require registration, not allowing a juvenile offense to mandate lifetime registration, and expanding judicial discretion at sentencing if a professional evaluator recommends exemption for a 1st offense (victim input is taken).
  • Remove the juvenile sex registry from the public domain and allows for release of juvenile information only under certain circumstances.

Description:

If a juvenile is required to register, the automatic registration duty ends either when the person reaches age 25 or seven years from the day the juvenile was required to register, whichever occurs later. If a person whose duty to register has automatically terminated attempts to register or asks about it, local law enforcement must tell them they don’t need to register, remove them from any local registry, and notify the state bureau of investigation that the registration duty has ended.

Clarify that law enforcement may not release or post information regarding juveniles on the registry and create an unclassified misdemeanor for false statements made to access the registry.

Additional Information:

Local law enforcement or the state bureau of investigation can charge a fee to determine whether duty to register has terminated. Maximum of $15 and must reflect actual costs involved. Can be waived for an indigent person. If the automatic removal has not occurred, the individual can petition the court to have it removed. If there are no subsequent convictions for unlawful sexual behavior or other offenses which involved unlawful sexual behavior and no pending prosecutions for such crimes, the judge must grant the request.

Requires courts to issue a ruling or set a hearing no later than 14 days before the end of each juvenile’s sentence concerning their on-going duty to register. Requires state to collect data on number of times information is requested and released concerning juveniles on the registry. Juveniles who judges determine do not have to register under this new system can be forced to register by the court if new information comes to light. State may only release juvenile registry information to law enforcement, the probation and parole division, child welfare, or the victim.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This moves the state more inline with evidence-based practices around juvenile sex offenses—juvenile sex crimes show very limited correlation to adult sex crimes
  • Being on this registry makes it extremely difficult to navigate in society and can push people toward committing more crime: research has shown being on a registry makes it more likely someone will commit future, non-sex related crimes, than those who are not required to register
  • This also moves us more inline with other states when it comes to registry privacy—we need a system that better allows for shades of grey when it comes to still developing juveniles

In Further Detail: This moves the state’s juvenile registry more in the direction of evidence-based practices around juvenile sex offenses while keeping safeguards in practice. Youth who are required to register compared to with those who are not for the same crime are more likely to commit future, non-sex related crimes and critically, research has shown that juvenile sex crimes has a very limited correlation to committing adult sex crimes. Putting them on this public registry in essence pushes people toward criminal behavior by removing some of their ability to navigate society (such as losing ability to qualify for federal housing). Colorado is also currently one of only a handful of states that publish the juvenile sex registry. We recognize that juveniles are still developing by treating juvenile crime differently than adult crime. Sexually based crimes are no different. We need a system that allows for shades of gray, where we can still use the registry when it is necessary but not force it into situations where it actually may do more harm than good. And we need to make sure that for crimes that do merit inclusion on the registry, we are not flushing someone’s life away by destroying the very social supports they need for proper rehabilitation.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Public safety is our paramount concern, if someone is still on the registry despite the additional leeway the bill provides to ensure they really belong there, then the public deserves to know

In Further Detail: The concept behind the sex offender registry is public safety. While it may make sense to allow for more judicial leeway, making the registry pretty much entirely private negates the purpose of having such a registry: to give families the ability to protect themselves against potential predators. We recognize that frequently the commission of sexually-based crime can be accompanied by mental illness that if untreated, may lead to additional sexually-based crimes. So if a juvenile is still on the registry after all of the new procedures this bill puts in place to potentially exempt them, the public has a right to know and act accordingly.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1064

HB21-1078 Release On Bail Violation Of A Protection Order [Sandridge (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSOR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • If a court decides to set a monetary bond condition for the release of someone charged with violating a protection order, it must set a minimum of $10,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for a second or subsequent offense.

Description:

Does not prohibit court from determining type of bond or non-monetary conditions of release to a person’s bond.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is both a safety and peace of mind issue: protection orders are only granted by courts when they determine someone poses a danger to someone else. Allegedly violating that order is incredibly serious. A 2020 case is the perfect example: a man released on a $2,000 bond for violating a protection order killed the women who had the protection order against him
  • Judges still have discretion in these cases to issue no monetary bond at all

In Further Detail: Protection orders are legal documents issued by courts. They are not frivolous and involve convincing a judge that someone’s safety is at risk. So an alleged violation of such an order is very serious and potentially very dangerous. Last year a Colorado woman was murdered by her estranged husband (who then killed himself) who had been arrested three times for violating the protection order against him. Both times the bond was set at $2,000 and both times he met it and was released. He then violated the order a third time and again got out on bond. He then murdered his wife and killed himself. All of this occurred within a three-month timespan. The bill does not remove a judge’s discretion: either to issue no bail at all or have monetary conditions even higher than the minimums in the bill. But clearly our justice system is making it too easy right now to violate a protection order and get out of jail right away.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We are an innocent before proven guilty society, and monetary conditions for bail frequently put those without means at a severe disadvantage: they can lose their housing, their job, and their kids.
  • Not all protection orders are the same and not all violations are the same, but the bill is one-size fits all

In Further Detail: Clearly the justice system failed in that 2020 case, but we are an innocent before proven guilty society and setting monetary conditions for bail frequently puts those without means at a severe disadvantage: they can lose their housing, their job, and their kids because they cannot get out of jail prior to trial. What the bill fails to recognize is that not all situations are alike. The 2020 case was crying out for no bail at all: a man with a history of domestic abuse who had violating the protection order three times in three months was an imminent danger. But the bill provides no timelines, no stricter provisions requiring no bail in some circumstances, and consideration of the underlying order.


Bottom Line:

  • This does not go far enough to prevent something like what happened in 2020 (and happens often, to be clear). Women are killed by someone violating a protection order all the time in this country

In Further Detail: This does not go anywhere near far enough. Violating a protection order is one of the clearest indicators of a risk to public safety that we have, but the bill basically sets bail conditions that are guaranteed to keep people without means in jail but won’t stop someone with means from getting out. It also fails to set no-bail restrictions for egregious situations like what happened in 2020, at least until a full hearing has been held on the matter. Women are killed all the time in this country by people (usually men) who they have a protection order against. We must take this issue even more seriously than the bill does.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1078

HB21-1209 Parole Eligibility For Youthful Offenders (Lee (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D), Daugherty (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $118,976
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal:

  • Makes any offender in jail for a felony committed while offender was age 18-24 eligible for parole after serving half of their sentence and at least 15 years. Presumption in favor of granting parole if the offender has completed any program required as part of their sentence unless the offender has had a penal code discipline in past 5 years or type 1 discipline in past 10. This does not apply to anyone serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
  • Extends the specialized program for juveniles who are tried as adults for felonies and sentenced to long terms in jail to an adult who committed the felony while under the age of 21, so long as they have served more than 20 or 30 calendar years, same as the current requirement for adults.

Description:

Those 18-21 can only be put into the specialized program if there is space in the program. This program allows those who complete it to leave prison early. The bill changes the thresholds from 25 years to 23 years served for all felonies except first-degree murder and 30 years to 28 years for first-degree murder. This program does not apply to those who are in or have been in serious behavioral or mental health treatment while in custody.

Requires the state to offer restorative justice services (previously was optional) to offenders and victims. Both must agree. These include victim-offender conferences, family group conferences, circles, community conferences, and other similar victim-centered practices.

Juveniles tried as adults for 1st degree murder who entered plea deals that made parole possible must have served 30 years of their term before being eligible for the special program and cannot be released until they have served 35 years.

Going forward, for anyone who might be eligible for the specialized program in the future, requires the court to make a statement that there is a possiblity the defendant will serve part of their sentence in the program (so the victims and the public are aware).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Our brains do not reach full development until our mid-twenties, particularly when it comes to rational decision making so we should be treating those under 25 with some of the same consideration we already give juveniles punished as adults
  • The length of prison time even under these accelerated parole standards is long, but the potential for early reconsideration gives prisoners hope, particularly youthful offenders. The parole board retains the final decision
  • Restorative justice programs can be good for all involved so we should make them more widely available

In Further Detail: Research has indicated that our brain does not reach full development until our mid-twenties, particularly when it comes to rational decision-making. This also matches our anecdotal experience. So those who our society considers adults and punishes as adults deserve a chance at earlier freedom if they have demonstrated positive behavior. Reconsidering such offenders after lengthy jail time (15 years is no joke) creates hope for and helps development maturity and responsibility in youthful offenders. The parole board retains ultimate discretion, so if they believe public safety is truly at risk they can deny the parole. Lowering the thresholds in the specialized program (which would also apply to juveniles in the program) recognizes the reality that because of budget constraints these programs are basically always finished at 25 and 28 years respectively, so right now people then have to sit for two years and wait. Restorative justice provides a chance for offenders to develop empathy and understanding for their victim, and gives them a chance to apologize. For victims, it provides answers to questions all of them want to know, why the crime happened, what went wrong in the person who committed the offense to have it happen, and it gives them the ability to hear from the incarcerated individual apology and remorse. In all, the core purposes of prison are to keep society safe and to rehabilitate individuals so they can be positive contributors to society once they are released. Offenses committed by youthful adults are more likely to hit both of these objectives early, as the brain completes development, and this bill helps us better recognize these individuals.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We let anyone over 18 fight in the military, smoke, vote, and make independent decisions. We let those over 21 drink—so we need to treat adults like adults
  • This program only applies to really serious wrongdoing (minimum 30 year sentence to qualify)

In Further Detail: An adult is an adult, period. Despite the science on the brain we let adults in this age range fight in the military, smoke, drink, vote, and do everything else adults are allowed to do. We should not turn around when one of them does serious wrong (a minimum 30 year prison sentence is the requirement for the 50% at least 15 years qualification) and treat them differently than someone who committed a serious crime at age 25. Felony sentences have their own parole guidelines and we should continue following them. This holds for the juvenile sentenced as an adult program as well. Treat kids like kids and adults like adults.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1209

HB21-1211 Regulation Of Restrictive Housing In Jails (Lee (D)) [Amabile (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level but local areas will have to increase spending

Goal:

  • Ban the use of restricted housing in jails (essentially solitary confinement, see Description for definition) for people with serious mental health disorders, exhibiting self-harm or grossly abnormal and irrational behaviors or breaks with reality that indicate a serious mental health disorder or a self-reported mental health disorder; people with significant auditory or visual impairment that cannot otherwise be accommodated; women who are pregnant or post-partum; people with severe neurocognitive impairments; anyone under the age of 18; or anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability
  • Requires jails to track their usage of restrictive housing and their incidence rate for behavioral or mental health crises (see Description for more detail) and report this data quarterly to the state, which must make it publicly available. Must report use of solitary confinement exemptions in this bill (see Description) to facilities medical personnel within one 12 hours and the individual's appointed legal representative, designated emergency contact, or guardian within 12 hours.
  • Anyone placed in solitary using the exemptions in this bill must be checked every 15 minutes twice every hour and their behavior noted. If If bizzare or potentially self-harming behavior is noted checks must be every 15 minutes or more frequently unless a mental health professional says otherwise.
  • Jail must provide basic hygiene items, including shaving and showering at least three times a week; changes of clothes, bedding, and linen at least as regularly as the general prison population; access to writing and receiving mail; opportunities for visitation; access to legal materials; access to legal materials; minimum of one hour of exercise outside the cell five days a week and access to outdoor exercise at least once a week, weather permitting; telephone privileges to access judiciary system and be informed of family emergencies; and access to educational, religious, recreational, medical, dental, and behavioral health programs and services unless doing so would endanger anyone's safety. If the jail does not all for any of these items it must make a record of the denial and the reason why.
  • Jail must assess anyone placed in solitary within 24 hours for signs of any psychiatric or medical contradictions to the placement. This must be face-to-face and then done every 24 hours until they are removed from solitary. At least every 48 hours the individual must be assessed for continued need to be in solitary
  • Requires all jails to use an adequate health screening tool upon arrival of all inmates that includes a thorough health history, history of suicidal ideation or self-injury attempts, past or current mental illness, all drug use and any withdrawal symptoms, current or recent pregnancy, serious neurocognative issues, present or past medications, and observation of appearance. No one can be placed in soliatry until they are screened

Description:

Restrictive housing is defined as involuntary placement that requires an individual to be confined to a cell separate from other people with very limited out-of-cell time for approximately 22 hours per day, less than 22 hours on regular and appropriate intervals over a 7 day period (average of just over 3 hours per day), and restricted activity, movement, and social interaction.

Jails can place an individual alone in a room if the confinement is part of a routine practice that is applicable to substantial portions of the jail population for health or security reasons, if the individual was transferred to a mental health facility but refused treatment or was not admitted, they pose an imminent threat to themselves or others, or no less restrictive option is available and de-escalation techniques are not working. If a licensed mental health professional or psychiatrist diagnosis the individual as not having a serious mental illness, the self-reporting does not apply. In no case shall a facility hold someone who meets this bill's standards in solitary for more than 15 days in a 30 day span without a court order. The person may be kept in solitary if the request for an extension was filed in a timely manner and the case is still pending. Courts may only order more than 15 days if the person poses an imminent risk to themselves or others, no alternative is available, the jail has exhausted all other placement alternatives, and no other options exist.

For the report on confinement, data must include: self-identified race, gender, and age of inmate; whether they have a serious mental health condition; placement classification before being put in restrictive housing; basis for using restricted housing; date and times of restrictive housing; any alternatives attempted before restricted housing and if none, why not; whether the individual suffered injury or death in restricted housing and what it was and why; medical or mental health diagnoses of the individual and treatment provided by the jail that occurred while the individual was in restrictive housing, and whether the person was referred for a mandatory mental health or substance abuse hold and if so, if the hold was certified.

For mental health in general, jail must report: number of individuals in jail with identified mental health, substance use, and co-occurring conditions; how many individuals were transferred to a local hospital or crisis facility for mental health or substance use reasons and the outcome. The outcome includes: if the transfer was certified, if the person was held for more than 24 hours, if they were held for less than 12 hours, if they were still symptomatic when they were transferred back, any court orders for an evaluation and any orders for certification, and if the individual was not certified, the reason given for why. If jails cannot perform a mental health screening due to intoxication or something else that is incapacitating the individual, they must document the delay and do the screening within 24 hours.

Bill applies to city or county adult detention centers with more than 400 beds.

Bill gives authority to the existing jail-based behavioral health services program to spend money on helping local jails meet requirements of this program, including physical changes to facilities. Any such changes must be approved by the office of behavioral health.

Additional Information:

Serious mental health disorder is defined as one or more substantial disorders of the cognitive, volitional, or emotional processes that grossly impair judgment or capacity to recognize reality or to control behavior and that substantially interfere with the person’s ability to meet the ordinary demands of living.

Postpartum is defined as lasting until one year after a pregnancy has ended.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It is pretty much undisputed that solitary confinement is extremely harmful to health. Multiple studies have shown the stress from such confinement is akin to torture and many organizations around the world call for the ban of its use in just the way this bill envisions
  • The bill does allow for health and safety exemptions as part of the regular routine and multiple studies and our own experience at the state level (where solitary confinement use has been severely curtailed for several years) shows no increase in levels of violence from curtailing solitary confinement
  • We have to ensure that if restrictive confinement is used, it is used in the most humane manner possible, with the most guardrails possible
  • We have to ensure the provisions of the bill are complied with, thus the need for detailed reporting

In Further Detail: Just about every major world and national health organization agrees that solitary confinement is extremely harmful to health. Multiple studies have shown the stress from such confinement is akin to torture. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care calls it cruel and inhumane and states that people in the categories the bill lays out should be excluded from it. In 2012 a national task force concluded that solitary was the most potentially damaging aspect of incarceration to juveniles. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners also states the people in the categories the bill lays out should not be exposed to solitary confinement. For the concern about safety, first the bill allows for safety and health exceptions as part of regular routine. But there are also multiple studies that show no correlation between use of solitary confinement and the safety of the prison or jail. We already have severely curtailed its use in state prisons and seen no rise in violence in those facilities. It is time to do the same in county and city jails. We also have to ensure that anyone placed in restrictive housing is closely monitored, treated in a humane manner, and not left in solitary for long periods without a really good reason. For the reporting side of the bill, we can expect some resistance to this policy and have to ensure it is being properly implemented. Transparency is the only way to do that.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Corrections officials have extremely difficult and potentially dangerous jobs and many of them believe solitary confinement helps keep them safe. We should prioritize them over the inmates
  • As with any other system, abuses should be weeded out without tossing the entire thing
  • Sometimes prisoners do need to be separated for safety, including their own, which can require segregated facilities or staggered schedules that could require retrofitting in some facilities but the bill provides no new funds to do this
  • Allowing self-reported serious mental health disorders to qualify creates a large loophole that any clever inmate can exploit

In Further Detail: Our corrections officers have an extremely difficult and at times dangerous job. Many of them believe that being able to use solitary confinement helps keep them safe, particularly its usage as punishment. As with any system, we should work to weed out abuses and always strive to do our best to keep inmates as healthy as possible. But that should be a secondary consideration to the safety of our corrections officers. Furthermore, some county and city jails may lack the ability to provide the accommodations required to keep inmates safe without using solitary confinement. Sometimes prisoners do need to be separated from each other for safety. Doing this without solitary confinement involves segregated facilities and schedules that may require retrofitting of jails to achieve. The bill provides no new money for facilities that may need this help.Finally, the mental health disorder contains a rather large loophole that anyone can exploit: self-reported mental health disorder. So long as the inmate says it, the jail must honor it regardless of actual facts or circumstances.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1211

HB21-1214 Record Sealing Collateral Consequences Reduction (Coleman (D), Lee (D)) [Weissman (D), Bacon (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $340,420
Fiscal Impact: About $1.2 million net loss at full implementation, then should subside to a lower number once the backlog is cleared

Goal:

  • Create an automatic sealing process for all drug offenses (does not require any petition by the defendant and no ability to object from the district attorney and no hearing in court). For petty drug offenses and drug misdemeanors, must be 7 years since the defendant completed their sentence with no subsequent convictions or pending cases. For drug felonies, 10 years. Bill lays out a process to determine eligibility (see Description)
  • Some offenses are not currently eligible for the defendant to petition the court to have their record sealed after a passage of time (time varies by offense) even if they meet the criteria of being Class 3-6 non-violent felonies. See Description for full list of non-violent offenses. Misdemeanors that are not eligible for petition can still be sealed if the district attorney agrees or if the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant is no longer a threat to public safety and his or her need for sealing is significant and substantial. This bill expands that to include Class 3 and lower felonies, including unclassified felonies if the crime was not violent, and class 1 drug felonies
  • Require the state to automatically seal arrest records for all crimes except for felonies with at least a three year statute of limitations if one year has passed since the arrest and no charges have been filed. Right now this can be done but it must be done via petition to the court and the statute of limitations must have run out for the crime or the person must not be being investigated anymore. This is just for arrest records in the control of the state bureau of investigation (which conducts background checks). If charges are subsequently filed in the case then the record must be unsealed. The bill sets out a process for dealing with all arrests prior to 2022 (see Description)

Description:

Bill also creates a process for defendants with multiple arrests, making older arrests ineligible under state law, to have their records sealed. The basics of the final sealing process work the same as existing law, must not have committed a crime in the intervening time frame, district attorney can object, victims can object, if there is no objection then the record is sealed for lower level cases. But the timeframes since the last offense are doubled in each case, so petty offense or drug petty offense goes from 1 year with no subsequent convictions to 2, class 2 or 3 misdemeanor or drug misdemeanors from 2 to 4 years, class 1 misdemeanor, class 4-6 felonies and class 3-4 drug felonies from 3 years to 6 5 years for misdemeanors, and all other eligible crimes from 5 years to 10 years. In practice, this means someone who was convicted of a petty offense, and then another petty offense 11 months later can get that first conviction sealed. Right now they could get the second one sealed 1 year after completing their sentence, but the first one would always be ineligible. Under this bill, 2 5 years after the defendant has completed their sentence for the second crime they could get the first one sealed.

But there are upper limits: no more than 5 convictions in separate episodes for petty crimes, 4 for class 2 or 3 misdemeanors or misdemeanor drug offenses, 3 for class 4-6 felonies and class 3-4 drug felonies, and 2 for all other eligible crimes. Once ten years pass in all cases, the eligibility limit gets increased by 1 conviction. This is not additive (so 20 years does not increase the limit by 2).

Bill allows those who have been given full pardons to immediately ask for their records to be sealed. As with all other sealing cases, they must notify the district attorney who may then object (and the victims must be notified and they can also object). As with other cases if the crime is not a victim’s rights crime (all violent crimes, abuse, stalking, violating protection order, careless driving that resulted in death, retaliation or intimidation of victim or witness, indecent exposure, human trafficking, child prostitution) the sealing is done automatically by the judge if there is no objection. If the district attorney objects or the crime is a victim’s rights crime, then there must be a hearing with the burden of clear and convincing evidence to prove the records should not be sealed.

For determining eligibility to automatically seal drug offenses, the state court administrator creates an initial list of everyone who is eligible. This is then sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. They compare the list using fingerprints to their own database and remove anyone they cannot identify or anyone who has a conviction during the intervening period. The list then goes to each district attorney. They remove anyone who has a pending criminal charge or who agreed as part of a plea deal not to have their record sealed in the future. The court administrator then gets the final list and issues sealing orders gives it to the chief judge of the district who then issues the sealing orders. These go out to all relevant state parties and to the defendant, if contact information is available. This process is done for the first time in July 2024 and then every 35 days first Monday of the month. Bureau of Investigation and district attorneys have 35 days to complete their review of each new list.

State must develop a website that allows defendants to confidentially determine if their conviction has been expunged and how to get a copy of the order.

For arrests in 2019-2021, the state must seal records within three years of the arrest date for felonies that qualify (same rules as arrests going forward, 3 year statute of limitations is the cut-off) and 18 months for all other crimes. State has until 2023 to seal all eligible records from 2013-2018, until 2024 for 2008-2012, until 2025 for 2003-2007, until 2026 for 1997-2002, and all eligible records must be sealed by 2027.

State must create a way for approved treatment providers for sex offenders or domestic violence offenders to access sealed arrest records.

Creates the Sealing Defense Fund which gives money to the state public defender and alternative defense council so as to represent indigent people in proceedings to seal their records (the only time you are guaranteed a lawyer in our justice system is when facing criminal charges, so this does not apply).

The complete list of offenses that are not eligible for requesting record expungement are:

  • Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses
  • Class A or B traffic infractions
  • Any offense where the underlying case involved unlawful sexual behavior (where there is no violence)
  • Any offense involving child abuse or neglect (where there is no violence)
  • DUIs
  • Crimes involving extraordinary aggravating circumstances (already a defined term in criminal law)
  • Stalking
  • Human trafficking
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Crime involving a pregnant woman
  • Sale or distribution of illegal drugs

Current law requires sealed records to be unsealed if the defendant commits another crime. The bill keeps this provision.

Additional Information:

The bureau of investigation is not required to do any investigation of arrest records: if they don’t have documentation of filing of charges within a year then the record gets sealed.

If a multiple conviction defendant is trying to get record sealed in multiple jurisdictions, they have to apply in each jurisdiction separately.

Bill allows the state public defender or alternative defense council to accept gifts, grants, and donations from private or public sources for the sealing defense fund.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • A criminal record can be an enormous barrier in our society: from getting housing to getting a job to getting into institutions of higher education. If our ultimate goal is to reintegrate people into society as fully functioning citizens who do not commit crimes, we are hurting ourselves by making it so hard for ex-criminals who have proven they have turned their lives around
  • The bill contains sufficient safeguards to ensure we are truly dealing with more minor offenses and that criminal activity has ceased
  • The underlying record is still there, just sealed from view from most of society. If any future criminal activity occurs the records can be unsealed and even while sealed there is visibility from some high-risk employment environments like law enforcement
  • We live in an innocent before proven guilty society, so arrest records that don’t lead to future charges are absolutely not any employer’s business and again, the records are sealed, not expunged

In Further Detail: If you have a criminal record of any kind, you are going to struggle more in our society. Nearly 90% of employers, 80% of landlords, and 60% of colleges do criminal screens. Multiple state regulations impose restrictions on hiring someone with a criminal history. This hinders our main goal for those exiting the criminal justice system: becoming functioning members of society who will not commit future crimes. It also can harm the well-being of the defendant’s family and these harms are disproportionately borne by people of color. This is particularly true for drug convictions, where despite similar usage levels across race, Blacks are disproportionately more likely to be arrested and incarcerated than whites. The burdens of the petition system, which require the defendant to start the process themselves and pay court fees, should be tossed aside when so much time has passed for drug offenses. Seven and ten years for misdemeanors and drug felonies respectively is enough time to demonstrate that the defendant has gotten drugs out of their life. For crimes where the defendant cannot petition to have their record unsealed, these are not crimes of violence and the same argument about successful reintegration into society applies. At some point we have to be willing to wipe the slate clean. And remember: these records are still there. They are not being expunged, they are merely being sealed. For places where we are really concerned about having ex-criminals in positions of employment, like law enforcement, hospitals, government jobs, or organizations that require people to work with children, sealing still provides some visibility. So any future criminal activity will open them right back up again. For arrest records, this is even more a matter of basic fairness. We live in an innocent before proven guilty society, and that means in the court of law. The fact that someone was arrested is completely irrelevant to anything if they were not subsequently charged with a crime. Again, if charges are filed the records are to be unsealed. As for the argument that we already have a petition process: only about 7% of people get their records cleared in some manner. The system clearly does not work.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Any automated system that does not involve a judge making an informed decision can err just because the facts aren’t examined—we trust our judges to make judgments, especially if we are going to in essence lie about the past

In Further Detail: Any automated system is by definition not going to look at the underlying facts of a case. Every case is of course different and instead of offering blanket sealing, we should have judges putting their eyes on these facts. We entrust our judges with making all sorts of judgements and should do so here as well. We are talking about in essence lying to employers, landlords, and everyone else about someone’s past. For the question, “have you ever been convicted of a crime” the real answer here is yes. Now we may have valid reasons for not informing these folks about the true past, but taking such a large step should not be done lightly or automatically. We of course also already have a process where you can petition to have your record sealed and can create ways to help the indigent pay for this (as this bill does).


Bottom Line:

  • Sealing a record is not enough—it does not provide a true clean slate and any agency required to conduct a background check can still see the conviction: they just don’t reply that such a thing publicly exists. Employers required by law to do background checks can still see sealed records. So can law enforcement agencies and state attorneys

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1214

HB21-1215 Expansion Of Justice Crime Prevention Initiative (Hisey (R), Lee (D)) [Holtorf (R), Ortiz (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant

Appropriation: $3.5 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Expand the pilot justice reinvestment crime prevention initiative statewide to Grand Junction and Trinidad, including rural areas in unincorporated areas outside of city limits (currently is just in northern Aurora and southeast Colorado Springs). This will may require selecting one or more community foundations to serve the state outside the previous communities (unless the community foundations there can serve the state) to administer the initiative’s grant program, the state is to look for another provider if the current one is unable to serve these areas
  • Create a new program inside the initiative to provide business and entrepreneurship training, grants, and business support to formerly incarcerated people. Grants can only be awarded to people that complete the training with a maximum of $50,000 per grantee. Must have at least 1/3 of the grant amount in matching funds from an outside source. Grant recipients are eligible to participate in the consulting program for at least a year from their grant award Money in the program can be used to assess these people for current level of relevant knowledge and skills to start a business, provide entrepreneurship and relevant business skills training, assist those that graduate from the program with getting loans or other capital, and providing a maximum of $5,000 a year per person in grants to increase training participation or graduation, loan readiness, accelerate loan repayment, or other similar purposes. No one can get grants for more than three years.
  • Bill appropriates $3.5 million to fund this expansion and new program, wtih $1.4 million going to the Grand Junction expansion, $700,000 to the Trinidad expansion, and $1.4 million to the new entrepreneurship program

Description:

The current program spends $4 million a year in the two target communities, with most of that going to grants for school achievement, community-based services, neighborhood connections, community engagement, leadership development, safety/usability of common outdoor spaces, and data collection, analysis and evaluation. The rest mostly goes to small business loans, maximum of $50,000 per loan.

For the education program, the local government division (which hosts this entire program) must collaborate with the department of corrections and the state office of economic development to develop and implement it. It must include a comprehensive training program in business, finance, and entrepreneurship, including specific training in developing a business plan and business model.

State is to develop an application and review process for grants. Applications must include a business plan, a business model, an explanation for what the grant money is for, names of key personnel including all investors who own more than 10% of the business, identification of the matching funds and their source, and proof of completion of the training program. All grants must include assigned targets for each grant recipient based on their application to provide success indicators. Grantees can reapply every year for grants for up to five years so long as they provide documentation demonstrating successful progress from the previous year and a strong potential for continued progress and future independence from the program. This must include cash flow analysis. Grant review must be a rigorous, competitive, multi-stage review process that includes multiple stakeholders.

State may accept gifts, grants, and donations to run the new program.

Bill extends the entire initiative with sunset review from 2023 to 2027 2026 2027.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2027

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Getting employment after getting out of prison can be extremely difficult, as a result ex-inmates have unemployment rates five times higher than the national average. This leads to a cycle of recidivism which doesn’t help anyone
  • This initiative is designed to help prevent crime in communities so it is the perfect vehicle for the bill’s new program and the pilot is primed to be expanded to different parts of the state, in particular more rural areas
  • The structure of the bill is fine, our state agencies are perfectly capable of executing the instructions for the entire program without a ton of handholding

In Further Detail: It can be extremely difficult for people getting out of prison to get employment. Former inmates have unemployment rates five times higher than the national average and many doors are simply closed to them from the outset. That puts incredible strain on the individual to stay out of the criminal activity that got them in trouble in the first place, and so the cycle continues. Arrest, incarceration, get out of jail, can’t get a job, more crime, arrest, incarceration. The goal of this initiative is to prevent crime in communities, which makes it the perfect vehicle for the new program in the bill to try to help break the cycle and get gainful and long-lasting employment for ex-inmates, perhaps as owners of their own businesses employing other people too. That will rebound to all of our benefits in numerous ways, as a society and economically. As for the structure of the bill, our state agencies run a lot of grant programs and they don’t always need the legislature to hold their hands and walk them through every step in the process in detail. The requirements for what to do are in the bill and the state must execute them. The bill also appropriates money for this expansion and the new program so no existing funds will be touched.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a dramatic expansion of a pilot program without review that also drastically shifts its mission without providing any additional funding
  • The new program idea is solid but it belongs on its own, not piggybacking and potentially usurping this existing program—it may also be overly focusing on starting a new business and not enough on simple employment
  • The bill is too vague in too many areas: eligibility, the details of the education program, prioritization, and reporting

In Further Detail: This takes an existing program which is new and a small pilot set for sunset review in 2023 and expands it to the entire state while drastically shifting its mission from creating safer communities free of crime to directly aiding people who were incarcerated. That is a noble aim, and the fundamental idea behind the new program is good, but instead of piggybacking and potentially usurping an existing program without providing any extra funding streams, it should be something that stands on its own. It is also pretty focused on starting a new business, which is certainly a worthwhile endeavor but perhaps the more basic problem of simple employment should be our first target. Not everyone is able to or even wants to start their own business. The bill also provides little to no guidance on how the rest of the entire state should be carved up for community foundations to administer the original intent of the program, nor on how this training is to be done nor on any sort of eligibility requirements for what is sure to be a popular program that may have a high wait list. There is no required reporting from grantees (unless they are reapplying) or from this program to the legislature. And finally, this smaller pilot should not be expanded at all without more thorough reporting and review. And if it is expanded, it should be done with more care and more money.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1215

HB21-1280 Pre-trial Detention Reform (Lee (D), Rodriguez (D)) [Woodrow (D), Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $499,452
Fiscal Impact: $1.2 million a year at full implementation

Goal:

Require all bond hearings to be held within 48 hours of an individual arriving at a jail or holding facility with limited exceptions and allow audio-visual technology and the use of a state bond hearing officer (which the bill creates) to help with weekends and holidays. Bill also provides a little more time for jails to process bond payments, up to 6 hours instead of the current 4.

Description:

Requires all bond hearings to be held within 48 hours of an individual arriving at a jail or holding facility. This requires an in-person hearing with a judge (or bond hearing officer as described below) and an individualized bond order. Use of audio-visual technology is permissible. If high speed internet is unavailable, then the hearing can be conducted by telephone. Delays due to emergencies that force court closure or if the defendant either refuses or is unable to attend court are also OK. This must start by April 2022. All jails must establish a means to pay online by next year.

The bill does change the existing requirement to release someone who has posted bond from within four hours to within six hours. Any delays must be documented.

All jails must post a notice of legal rights relating to posting bond money on their website (see Additional Information) and include information on how to file a compliant. Notice must also be in the inmate handbook and clearly visible in the area where bond is posted.

All sheriffs must file a certificate of compliance with these bond laws with the state. Multiple failures to comply with these laws can result in state denying funding requests by the sheriff unless the sheriff cures all failures within 30 days.

Creates the position of bond hearing officer, who has the authority to conduct bond hearings for any individual in the state. Bond hearing officer is to be appointed by the chief justice of the state supreme court and must be a qualified attorney-at-law in good standing with the state bar. They are to be used on weekends and holidays and use audio-visual devices that allow the public the opportunity to view the hearing, including the crime victim who must be able to participate. Any state judicial district that has been deemed underfunded by the underfunded courthouse facility cash fund commission automatically can use the bond hearing officer. Any other district must get permission from the state court administrator.

Creates a grant program to help district attorneys comply with the bill. Allowed uses include personnel, equipment, and travel but must be related to compliance with this bill. Colorado District Attorneys Council to make grant awards with priority given to districts with a population of under 200,000 (75% of money awarded). Council to request budget amount for program each year. $150,000 appropriated to fund.

Jail must provide public defender's office or private counsel access to the defendant and allow sufficient time so as to be prepared prior to the bond hearing.

Additional Information:

Bill also requires the sheriff to provide a written receipt for bond funds and information on next court date.

The bill provides exact text for the notification on the website. These include that fees never need to be paid to secure release, that people can be charged a $10 bond fee and maximum 3.5% credit card fee (but neither needs to be paid to secure release) but no other bond fees, all bond payments must be made to the holding county and not in the name of the incarcerated person, release must be made within 6 hours except up to 24 hours can be taken to properly secure electronic monitoring devices, anyone who posts bond has a right to their paperwork, sureties can never be asked to use bond payments to pay off defendant debts so only a defendant’s personal money can be used in this manner and it is voluntary.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • In an innocent before proven guilty society likes ours, we should treat people like they are innocent before trial which includes as speedy a bond process as possible
  • We have already studied this issue to see what would be required to implement a 48 hour bail program, now it is time to implement it. The bill allows for multiple ways to help local jurisdictions go faster including using audio-visual equipment to cut down on transportation times and an attorney to help with holidays and weekends
  • This can save money over the long-run

In Further Detail: We live in an innocent before proven guilty country. That means that when we arrest someone, we must do everything possible to treat them like an innocent person before trial. Part of this is a speedy bond process. No one should languish in jail waiting for just a hearing or waiting for a sheriff’s department to get its act together. We passed a bill two years ago that was preparing for this step, it required all judicial districts to study what it would require to implement a 48 hour bail program. Now that the study is done, it is time to implement it. This bill allows for audio-visual help to cut down on transport times and an attorney to help with the weekends and holidays. It even gives sheriffs more processing time than they currently have (6 hours versus 4). And once all of the processes are in place, this has the potential to save money in the long-run. It costs every local jurisdiction money to keep someone in a cell, for each day they are there. Getting someone out of the cell one day earlier saves money. Even hours can save money. As for the grant program that isn’t here like last year’s bill: with COVID every jurisdiction in the state had to do this work remotely so they should be set. On the attorney front, again this issue has already been studied so we aren’t going into this blind.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This could be an unfunded mandate if jails simply cannot keep up, since the bill gives no financial resources to local governments to help implement this
  • The bond officer position is quite vague: no qualifications beyond the extremely basic, no compensation mentioned, apparently no backup person, and no oversight
  • We are also ignoring the legal representation aspect here: what about weekends and holidays for prosecutors and defense attorneys?

In Further Detail: This could be an unfunded mandate, where jails simply cannot process cases this quickly due to lack of staff but are not given the resources they need to comply. A similar bill last year at least created a grant program (that it didn’t fund but at least it was there) to help districts procure audio-visual technology. Yes COVID has changed the equation here somewhat since remote hearings have become a necessity but that was without the 48 hour deadline. And the bond hearing officer position could be problematic. First, this means that some defendants will have a hearing with a judge and that others will not. The bond officer is apparently not compensated (at least it is not mentioned) and no qualifications are given other than being an attorney in good standing. What about their experience with different types of bond? Who is checking that they are doing a good job? Are there backups? This is one person, can they never take a weekend or holiday off? What if there is a medical emergency? There is also no required oversight of this individual to ensure they are doing a good job. Finally, what about legal counsel? Some prosecutor’s offices in the state are extremely small and public defenders even more so. They have to be ready to go for the 48 hour requirement too.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1280

HB21-1315 Costs Assessed To Juveniles In The Criminal Justice System (Moreno (D), Gonzales (D)) [Herod (D), Soper (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $58 million in vacated fees, $1.1 million lost state revenue a year, unestimated lost local revenue

Goal:

Remove most fees and costs for juveniles in the criminal justice system. Complete list in Description, but there are fees associated with legal representation, surcharges that go into various funds, fees for restorative justice participation, cost of care, late fees, community service fees, and fees for collecting biological samples. All outstanding orders that the bill eliminates are also voided, which is estimated to total $58 million. Requires annual transfers of $598,000 from the marijuana tax cash fund to the restorative justice fund, crime victim's compensation fund, and victims and witness assistance fund to make up for lost revenue.

Description:

Removes all of the following costs for juveniles in the criminal justice system:

  • Cost of care for a juvenile sentenced to out-of-home placement or granted probation except for funds required by federal law
  • Cost of prosecution, cost of care, and fines for juveniles found delinquent by the court
  • Fees for applying for court-appointed counsel and costs of such representation when the juvenile’s parent or guardian is not indigent
  • Costs and surcharges that go into the crime victim compensation fund and the victims and witnesses assistance and law enforcement fund
  • Surcharges paid into the sex offender surcharge fund
  • Cost of juvenile’s medical care in the youthful offender system
  • Cost of collecting and testing biological samples from juveniles sentenced to youthful offender system
  • Time payment and late penalty fees assessed when a juvenile does not pay fines, fees, costs, surcharges, or other monetary assessments in criminal cases
  • Restorative justice program fees
  • Costs and surcharges related to impaired driving
  • Fee assessed on people required to perform community service

Any outstanding debts for fees or surcharges or costs repealed in the bill are voided. Courts must report to the legislature on number of orders vacated as a result of the bill and amounts voided.

Requires annual transfers of $598,000 from the marijuana tax cash fund to the restorative justice fund, crime victim's compensation fund, and victims and witness assistance fund to make up for lost revenue.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The purpose of the justice system is not to raise revenue. If we need resources, there are other ways to get them other than off the backs of some of the most vulnerable in our society
  • Average fee in a juvenile case is $300. These folks are already behind the 8 ball due to having a conviction and perhaps spending time in juvenile custody. A potentially crushing financial burden can push the situation over the edge
  • Rural areas of the state have jacked up their fees, Logan County for instance has average fees of $1,482 per case
  • We have years of this system in action to know that courts aren’t really using all of that discretion they have to waive fees, three rural districts waive fewer than 20% of fees assessed
  • Just look at some of these: needing a lawyer, needing health care, required to do community service, forced to submit genetic material for testing, want to participate in restorative justice—all of it comes with a price tag right now
  • The fact that this bill would vacate around $58 million in current orders tells you all you need to know about how we are profiting off juveniles in the criminal justice system

In Further Detail: The purpose of the justice system is not to raise revenue. So any argument about how much revenue is lost for courts or local governments is not at all the point. If we need more revenues, there are other ways to get them rather than on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society. Because all of these fees can make it much harder for anyone involved in the juvenile justice system to recover and live an upright life as a citizen in our society. The average fee in juvenile cases is $300. They are already behind the 8 ball due to having a conviction and perhaps spending time in juvenile custody. A potentially crushing financial burden can push the situation over the edge. Furthermore, since youth of color are detained, arrested, and jailed at higher rates than white youth, these fees fall disproportionately on these communities. In rural Colorado, governments are using the fees to pay their bills instead of asking local citizens to do their part, as rural counties tend to have higher than average fees than the rest of the state. Logan County, for instance, has average fees of $1,482 per case, which is higher than the county’s median weekly income. Arguments Against seems to want to treat this as a thought experiment, as if we don’t have years of actual experience of this system in action. Can many of these fees be waived? Yes. Is the actual way the system works that the crushing burden of these fees is lifted in the interests of the best possible future for the individual and society? No. Three rural districts in the state waive fewer than 20% of fees assessed. And look at some of these fees: need a lawyer? Want to participate in a restorative justice program? Did the police force you to submit genetic material for testing? Did you get sick while in custody? Were you required to do community service as part of your sentence? All of that comes with a price tag. The fact that the overall annual price tag is low at the state level shouldn’t fool anyone. Look at the $58 million number. That tells you all you need to know about how we are profiting off juveniles in the criminal justice system.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Nearly all of these fees allow for judicial discretion. If that is not being done properly that is a separate problem then simply doing away with the fees altogether
  • This is also about punishment. Part of the criminal justice system is in fact about punishing people for doing wrong and part of that is monetary
  • This is going to take quite a big chunk out of some pretty worthy programs: crime victims are losing over $500,000 a year for example
  • $58 million is a ton of money to pull out of the system and could cripple some courts. Rural courts aren’t part of some plot against juveniles, it just costs more to operate them

In Further Detail: The structure of nearly all of these fees allow for judicial discretion. Restorative justice? Can be waived by the court. Sex offense surcharged? Can be waived by the court. Legal counsel fees? Can be waived by the court. Cost of care? Court is supposed to take means into account and there is a section of law that requires financial information to be submitted to the court for that reason. Community service fee? Can be waived by the court. So let’s move past the idea that the courts have no way to handle someone who cannot pay these fees and get back to the core issue here: nearly all of these revolve around someone who did wrong and requires punishment. It may sound old fashioned but that is in fact part of the purpose of the justice system. Punishment can take multiple forms but one of them is financial, because it in fact does cost us quite a bit of money to run our justice system and making the people who violate our laws pay for some of that is quite appropriate. Our juveniles that much different than adults that they deserve special exemption? Should a juvenile convicted of driving under the influence not have to pay the costs and surcharges associated with that offense? Should a sex offender not have to pay the surcharge into the sex offender fund? Should we deprive the crime victim’s fund of some money so as to spare a juvenile who committed a crime? Victims are losing $500,000 a year due to the bill.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1315

HB21-1320 Sunset Sex Offender Management Board (Lee (D)) [Tipper (D), Benavidez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Implement the recommendations of the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review of the Sex Offender Management Board by extending the board through September 2027, requiring supervising officers to follow board standards and allow the board to remove supervisors who do not, require agencies to give sex offenders a complete list of available treatment providers rather than just two, and require the board to keep records of any denials or delisting of providers due to failed criminal background checks. Extend the sex offender management board through September 2023 with a new sunset review

Description:

Extends the Sex Offender Management Board through September 2027 2023 with sunset review (was set to expire this September).

Clarifies that supervising officers are required to follow board created standards when working with the sex offender population. Supervising officers are defined as probation officers, parole officers, community corrections case managers, and employees of county departments that work with sex offenders. Allows the board to hear complaints against supervising officers for not following guidelines and remove their ability to supervise sex offenders.

Requires supervising agency of released sex offenders to provide a complete list of available treatment providers, rather than the current requirement of just two.

Requires the board to keep records of any denials or delisting of providers due to failed criminal background checks.

Removes language referencing sexual predators and other similar language that is no longer considered accurate according to national standards.

The board develops standards and guidelines that are applied in the state’s judicial and correctional systems to oversee adults who have been convicted or juveniles who have been adjudicated of sexual offenses.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2023

Arguments For:

  • These are the recommendations of the sunset review report The legislature briefly wanted to make much more detailed changes to this board and sex offender requirements, but instead wisely pushed such comprehensive changes down the road for the next review. The bill now just keeps the board going while setting up a much faster turnaround for another review
  • Sex offenders are a completely different type of offender and need the special system we have in place for treatment, which requires a board with expertise to oversee it
  • The review uncovered significant evidence of supervisors not following board standards, which undermines the entire point of the board, so the bill first requires supervisors to follow these standards and then gives the board the power to pull supervisors who don’t off these cases</strike

In Further Detail: These are all recommendations of the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review report. From the report: “The [board] and the program created under the Act are necessary to protect the Colorado public’s health, safety, and welfare.” The review uncovered evidence that some supervisors of treatment across the state are not following board standards, which undermines the entire point of having an expertise board create such standards in the first place. About 1/3 of sex offender treatment providers agreed with the statement “Some supervising officers with whom I work attempt to direct how I must report treatment progress, regardless of my professional assessment.” Right now if a therapist or evaluator refuses to follow guidelines they can be delisted as a provider by the board. The bill gives that same treatment to supervising officers. For the list of providers, there is no good reason to limit it to just two, we don’t need agencies steering offenders to certain providers, the entire point is that any approved provider can treat any offender. As for the size of the board, the report specifically did not recommend reducing it, even though it discussed a potential reduction and noted that the board can be dysfunctional (although it also noted that the board somehow still does the work it is supposed to)

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • There is no reason to not implement the wise suggestions of the sunset review conducted in 2019 that the bill originally included. That review uncovered significant evidence of supervisors not following board standards, which undermines the entire point of the board, so the bill first requires supervisors to follow these standards and then gives the board the power to pull supervisors who don’t off these cases. We could have easily made these changes and also kept the new 2023 sunset date to initiate a review for the deeper changes the legislature is interested in
  • The report also noted that the board is too unwieldy in size (it is 25 members) with subcommittee reports often ignored or sent back for modification with expertise sometimes discounted. An independent parliamentary examiner recommended the board be 11 or 15 people maximum and the report agreed, although it sidestepped a specific recommendation and punted to the legislature on exactly who should be on the board. So the legislature needs to step in and make these reductions

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1320

SB21-059 Juvenile Justice Code Reorganization (Lee (D), Gardner (R)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D), Geitner (R)]

TECHNICAL BILL

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Description: This is a massive reorganization of the state’s juvenile justice code that is meant to be entirely non-substantive to bring clarity and better organization to the code.

SB21-062 Jail Population Management Tools (Lee (D)) [Benavidez (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Ends use of monetary bail for any offenses below the level of class 2 felonies unless the court can find on the record that cash bail is the only way to either ensure the defendant does not flee or does not threaten the safety of others. The bill does not prohibit the use of pre-hearing release policies that require monetary payment for release (this would be before a judge issued a ruling)
  • Forbids police officers from performing what is called custodial arrest (arresting someone and bringing them to a jail where they will stay until they get a hearing) for offenses under class 3 felonies and class 2 drug felonies with a few exceptions having to do with imminent danger (see Description for full list). Bill specifically states that no review is required to ensure compliance with this section and it does not create any right to sue for violation of this section or have a case or evidence thrown out of court
  • Officers may issues summons to court with whatever charges are levied unless the alleged crime involved violence (in which case the officer may arrest the individual) or arrest is required by law
  • Encourage sheriffs to actively manage their jail populations to keep them as low as possible, including granting authority to test admission standards based on specific offenses

Description:

For appearing before the court because of failure to appear in court when summoned or violating parole for an original crime that was not a criminal offense, the court must issue a personal recognizance bond—which again means no money involved. Unless the failure was for a sex offense or crime of domestic violence and the court finds the defendant poses a threat to public safety or if the defendant has already had probation revoked for failure to comply in the case. Courts may add money in cases of parole violation or any case where failure to appear has happened three times or it finds on the record that the defendant is likely to flee if the defendant failed to appear at a proceeding where witnesses were called or if the defendant failed to appear to interfere or deter witness or victim participation.

The bill removes current law around summons and complaint orders issued by officers to replace it with the bill’s standard. The exceptions to the rule about custodial arrest are: it is required by law, the officer cannot verify the suspect’s identification without arresting them, the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect committed a DUI in the past five years or has three or more DUIs or the officer believes the individual would be dangerous and there is no sober person around to drive them, or the offense is a victim’s rights crime (most of these are already class 1 or 2 felonies but those that aren’t deal with sex crimes, abuse, stalking, violating protection orders, crimes against witnesses, and motor vehicle accidents that result in death), involves illegal possession or use of a gun, involves illegal sexual behavior, violates a protection order, deals with a credible threat to a school, or involves eluding police in a vehicle. In the case of the list of crimes, the officer also must record in the arrest document a reasonable suspicion of danger to public safety or unwillingness to stop committing crime without an arrest.

Additional Information:

In its definition of custodial arrest, the bill excludes officers who are transporting a person to a jail facility for reasons other than holding them there (like getting physical evidence such a fingerprints or DNA or executing a blood-alcohol test) and excludes transport to a hospital or behavioral or mental health facility unless the officer intends to put them in jail upon discharge.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We are an innocent before proven guilty society, we should act like it. The high cost of bail (and bail bonds) can be an impossible barrier for lower-income defendants. This means they will lose their job, maybe their housing, and maybe even custody of their children.
  • COVID related actions to limit prison populations have shown this can work
  • Keeping people in prison for no good reason wastes taxpayer money
  • Both of the previous two points extend perfectly to not arresting people and tossing them in jail pending a hearing for no good reason

In Further Detail: It is a bedrock principle of our criminal justice system that we assume people are innocent until we prove that they are guilty in a court of law. We definitely don’t act that in practice. On any given day before COVID a full 1/5 of the US prison population, 450,000 people, are in jail awaiting trial. The vast majority of them don’t need to be there. They aren’t going to flee, they aren’t there for violent offenses or offenses that might pose a danger to others. Instead they are potentially going to have their lives ruined, before being convicted of anything. They may lose their home, their job, even custody of a child. And the threat of this provides significant leverage to prosecutors. A study in Philadelphia found that assigning bail makes defendants 12% more likely to get convicted. Because people are pushed to plead guilty to low level offenses (or even higher ones) so they can get of jail. All of this is of course a massive waste of taxpayer resources. We spent $960 million of state taxpayer money on keeping people in jail last year. And we’ve learned from actions local officials have taken during COVID to minimize the number of people in jail that this can work. The state’s jail bookings fell by 46% as a result and are still down 35%. That level of decrease over an entire year would save us $170 million. We should only use monetary bond when it is actually necessary, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to any arrest or based on whatever the prosecutor wants. And bond should never be leveraged into getting a guilty plea. Prosecutors are perfectly able to argue in court that any particular case should be granted special exemption due to risk and judges are free to accept those arguments. Police officers are free to use their discretion in the same manner. As for the approach taken last year (mentioned in Arguments Against), a screening tool is a costly mechanism to essentially land in the same place

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Judges already have discretion to deny monetary bail demands from prosecutors, we should let them keep it
  • Public safety and welfare come before concerns about money, so we shouldn’t come into this looking to find savings
  • We can use time limits on arrest detention prior to a hearing to cut-down on the time people spend in jail after being arrested
  • People understandably don’t want to lose their bail money, so it is a valuable tool for getting people appear in court—as is simply arresting them

In Further Detail: Our system already gives judges discretion on bail—we should allow them to keep using it rather then put into place blanket rules that are difficult to overcome. Public safety and welfare have to come before all other concerns, including the state spending money to keep people in prison before trial. So we shouldn’t come into this looking to save money. If we need to spend $960 million a year to keep Coloradans safe, then that’s the price tag. On the arrest vs. summons angle, officers can already issue summons for misdemeanor offenses rather than utilizing arrest. This bill changes this to a requirement then heaps a whole ton of judgment calls on officers relating to public safety. A different way to approach the arrest/detention problem is to set a time limit on detention prior to getting a hearing, which has been a goal of some in the legislature for a few years and is likely to appear as a bill at some point this year. Just 48 hours is not going to ruin anyone’s life and provides enough time for the system to determine the true nature of potential threats to public safety. On the failure to appear angle, the threat of losing money is a valuable tool for getting people to appear in court. This isn’t like missing an appointment at the dentist. The entire court system has prepared for the proceeding the defendant knew about and missed. This not only wastes time, but wastes resources. Again, judges have discretion in this area, let them use it.


Bottom Line:

  • This diverges widely from the approach taken just last year to this same topic, which was to develop a pre-trial risk assessment screening tool to determine who does and does not need monetary bail

In Further Detail: Last year a bill was introduced that was also about reducing use of monetary bail, but instead of blanket bans and vague notions of threat, it required the state to develop an actual screening tool for everyone to use, partially to prevent a patchwork of rules and systems from developing throughout the state. It also had built-in anti-bias mechanisms to ensure that non-monetary bail was being applied equitably across the entire system. We need to have an approach along those lines.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-062

SB21-066 Juvenile Diversion Programs (Lee (D)) [Michaelson Jenet (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Add pre-arrest diversion to the juvenile diversion program, which means keeping juveniles out of the legal system entirely. Reorganizes and clarifies aspects of the existing juvenile diversion program law, adds some new reporting requirements, and requires the state to evaluate its diversion screening tools every three years.
  • Adjust the formula for allocating money out of the juvenile diversion program by requiring 20% to be set aside for community-based pre- or post-arrest diversion programs. The remaining 80% will be distributed according to the formula already determined by the state to cover each judicial district in the state. State must review its formula for allocations to community-based pre-arrest programs every three years

Description:

Diversion is literally that: diverting people (in this case kids) out of the justice system into alternative programs.

To distribute the 20% required by the bill, the state must award money based on a competitive grant program process. Programs that include restorative justice practices must be prioritized.

For the new reporting, each August 1st each district attorney in the state must report to the state the name and demographic data for any juvenile who was granted diversion. Also on each August 1st, each agency that receives money from this program must report on the number juveniles who were screened for diversion but rejected. This must include demographic data.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • One of our overarching goals in the justice system is to end up with solid citizens who do not break the law on the other end. Diversion is a great tool to achieve this, especially with kids, as it avoids the societal stigma of a criminal record
  • Our current program needed some clarification and some automatic review stop-gaps, as well as the addition of pre-arrest diversion and specific money spent on community programs

In Further Detail: It is no secret that having a criminal record makes it harder to do things in our society. It is harder to get a job, harder to secure housing, in short, harder to have the things anyone needs to avoid a life of crime. And so diversion, keeping people out of the system entirely when justified, is a great tool to avoid making people into career criminals. This is particularly true for juveniles. Obviously this requires some care, which is why we have an assessment tool—but that tool is not currently being constantly reevaluated which is necessary to make sure we are on the right track. So is having the proper data to understand how it is being used. Finally, diversion programs are only going to work if we have actual community programs to send these kids into. Because diversion is not simply going home and promising to be good. So the bill ensures a revenue stream to keep those programs running.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • A risk assessment tool is too thin a reed to hang public safety on—sometimes the burned hand works best
  • There is little oversight built into the bill for these grant recipients and we are literally taking money from other parts of the state by mandating 20% goes to this purpose

In Further Detail: Sometimes getting away with something, and to be clear avoiding jail or a fine that you would have earned and instead going into a community-based program is getting away with something, does not teach the full lesson. So while it is great to say that we want to keep kids out of the justice system, a singular risk assessment tool may not be the strongest foundation to decide who gets to get away with it and who has to pay the piper. When it comes to the funding changes, the bill does not require much of grantees (no reporting requirements, no standards they must meet) and takes money from the pot, instead of creating a new revenue source.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-066

SB21-071 Limit The Detention Of Juveniles (Buckner (D)) [Daugherty (D), Boesenecker (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $630,520
Fiscal Impact: About $2.5 million saved each year

Goal:

  • Only allow unsecured personal recognizance bonds for juveniles accused of any crime instead of cash bail terms. Juveniles who are held without the possibility of release must already be tried within 60 days according to state law, which this bill leaves in place
  • Reduces the cap of the number of detention beds in the division of youth services (juvenile jail) from 327 to 188 215.

Description:

Unsecured personal recognizance bonds mean the bond is “unsecured” which means it cannot require any money or property for release (thus no cash required) and that the juvenile is on their own personal recognizance, that is they forfeit the terms of the bond if they don’t show up in court. So there can be a cash amount put on the bond, but it is not collected unless the defendant misses court and the defendant can leave jail without paying any money.

The bill also leaves the provision that allows judges to divert kids to community-based pre-trial services that provide closer watch on the juvenile while allowing them to stay in their home.

Bill creates a working group to explore the availability of alternatives to youth detention and the use of detention beds and necessary investments in alternatives. requires existing working group on criteria for placement for juvenile offenders to Group is to consider: in-home and out-of-home options and supports for alleged juvenile offenders, including current capacity; outcomes associated with lengths of stay in detention facilities, residential treatment facilities, family-type placement, and family home; and outcomes based on categories of charges, age, and risk level.

Group must develop performance standards and outcome measures to monitor number of alternative placements, range of services offered by those placements, and community-based services available in each judicial district and county. Group must also advise state on policies, procedures, and best practices relating to alternatives to detention. State must report annually on the group to the legislature.

Additional Information:

Group to be composed of: director of division of youth services, director of office of children, youth, and families, employee who adminsters the money for juvenile services in the department of human services, and nine members appointed by executive director of department of human services. They are: three representatives of county departments, two representatives of organizations that advocate for youth involved in juvenile justice program, one representative of a district attorney's office, one representative of the office of the public defender, one representative of the judicial branch, and one person who was in the custody in youth services. Bill allows the executive director to appoint more members as necessary. Bill adds to the working group as follows: requiring at least three members from county departments of human or social services (previously just required one), someone from the department of youth services, someone from the division of child welfare, someone from the local juvenile services planning committees, and someone from organizations that advocate for youth involved in the criminal justice system. Group must also include at least two people directly affected by incarceration of youth, including one who was in the custody of a division of youth services facility.

For report to the legislature, must include: analysis of the performance standards created by working group; number of youth currently in detention awaiting community placement; capacity, needs, and barriers to supportive alternative placements; analysis of residential treatment facilities and alternative placements, including demand and funding; analysis of number of youth in alternative placements including their length of stay, family involvement, and satisfaction; analysis of availability of community-based services, including availability, need, funding available and how that funding is spent; analysis of impact on county child welfare systems; and recommendations to improve alternative placements options, on number of detention beds, and future data collection and reporting.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We are an innocent before proven guilty society, we should act like it. Prison can be incredibly traumatic for juveniles, even juvenile facilities. They miss school, their family, and can be exposed to violence
  • Cash requirements are a form of wealth discrimination: poorer families cannot afford to pay while wealthier ones get their kids out. This also disproportionately impacts communities of color
  • We waste taxpayer resources on keeping kids in jail who don’t need to be. The bill still allows kids who are truly dangerous to be kept in jail and still allows kids who are more in a middle ground to get increased scrutiny through community-based programs

In Further Detail: In this country, you are innocent before proven guilty. Now we accept some encroachment on that principle for public safety: someone accused of a serious crime may pose a danger or be a risk to flee. But requiring someone to pay money before leaving prison before they have had their day in court forces poorer families to leave their kids in jail, while the wealthier families can get them out. This disproportionately impacts communities of color and the impacts can be devasting. Kids in juvenile facilities miss school and can fall behind or further behind in their education. They are away from their family and all of the emotional support that can mean. And juvenile prison is no joke. These kids can be exposed to violence and overcrowded facilities that are understaffed with the potential for abuse and neglect. If someone truly needs to be kept in detention, we still can, as long as existing law about trial within 60 days is followed. If someone needs closer monitoring, we can still use the community-based monitoring program that allows the juvenile to go home but features more parole-like features up to GPS tracking devices. Finally, and it’s not the most important part, but we can save taxpayer money by doing this, to the tune of millions of dollars each year. That comes from the bed reduction which is about a simple principle long understood when it comes to prison facilities: they tend to fill up. The system seems to find a way to fill all the beds they have, so if we leave the beds, we are likely to end up with facilities that are just as full.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Judges already have discretion to deny monetary bail demands from prosecutors, we should let them keep it
  • Public safety and welfare come before concerns about money, so we shouldn’t come into this looking to find savings and chopping beds could cause public safety issues
  • This may cause more juveniles to be tried as adults or district attorneys rushing through and potentially botching cases

In Further Detail: We need to trust our judges with the discretion they are given. They can already decide not to require cash for bail. They can already decide to divert someone into community-based monitoring. We need to keep that discretion rather than taking a tool out of their hands for public safety. Because that is more important than saving any money. Those savings come from the bed reduction in the bill, which means that if we have 188 full beds and juveniles who are a danger to public safety, we have nowhere to put them. And this bill may have two unintended consequences. The first is the decision to try a juvenile as an adult. Obviously this would only be for more serious crimes but instead of either having to rush a trial within 60 days or have the juvenile out on the streets (community-based supervision is still in the community), district attorneys may decide they are better off with the adult criminal justice system. Or if the district attorney does keep it in juvenile court, they may be so overwhelmed with cases that they botch some of them through simple rush. The bill provides no monetary support for these district attorneys, many of whom are already overworked as it is, so hiring additional support may not be possible.


Bottom Line:

  • We should plow some of the savings from the bill into supporting our district attorneys that need help meeting the 60 day requirement

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-071

SB21-074 Expunge Nonviolent Convictions After Three Years (Coleman (D))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Create a system of automated expungement of criminal records one year after completion of sentence for petty offenses, three years after non-violent misdemeanors, and five years after non-violent felonies. There is a list of crimes for which this is not permitted (see Description). Bill sets out a process to determine that the defendant has not been convicted or accused of another crime in the intervening time.

Description:

First, expungement is basically erasing. It removes all records such that the offense did not happen, in a legal sense. All records are destroyed. This is different than sealing, where records are made private but can still be accessed by multiple different groups.

Non-violent felonies, in this bill, do not include any crimes of violence as defined by other states laws but also do not include burglary or robbing someone with the threat of force or any felony committed against a child. Non-violent misdemeanors are class 1, 2, or 3, misdemeanors that do not involve cruelty to animals or the use of or threat of force in committing the crime. The complete list is in Additional Information.

The process for creating the expungement list works like this: the state court administrator creates an initial list of everyone who is eligible. This is then sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. They compare the list using fingerprints to their own database and remove anyone they cannot identify or anyone who has a conviction during the intervening period. The list then goes to each district attorney. They remove anyone who has a pending criminal charge. The court administrator then gets the final list  and issues expungement orders. These go out to all relevant state parties and to the defendant, if contact information is available. This process must be done by July 2024 to catch up, then every 35 days.

State must develop a website that allows defendants to confidentially determine if their conviction has been expunged and how to get a copy of the order. Any private custodian that receives a copy of the order from the defendant must remove the relevant records from their database.

Bill also bans employers, educational institutions, state and local governments, from in any way asking or requiring an applicant to disclose if they have had a conviction expunged. Applicants may truly state that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Additional Information:

These crimes are not eligible for automatic expungement:

  • DUIs, class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses, class A or B traffic infractions
  • Any convictions where the underlying offense was unlawful sexual behavior
  • Child abuse
  • Class 1-5 felonies or level 1 drug felony
  • Crimes with extraordinary aggravating circumstances
  • Crimes classified as extraordinary risk, which include these crimes not already listed: aggravated robbery, intent or actual sale of unlawful substances, stalking, and sale of materials to manufacture controlled substances
  • Crime involving a pregnant victim
  • Crime involving domestic violence
  • Burglary or robbing someone with the threat of force
  • Any crime committed against a child

Class 5 or 6 felonies or misdemeanors which are otherwise ineligible can be put on the list if the district attorney consents, the victim has been notified, and a court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioner’s need for expungement is significant and substantial, the passage of time is such that they are no longer a danger to public safety, and public disclosure of the record is no longer necessary to protect or inform the public.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • A criminal record can be an enormous barrier in our society: from getting housing to getting a job to getting into institutions of higher education. If our ultimate goal is to reintegrate people into society as fully functioning citizens who do not commit crimes, we are hurting ourselves by making it so hard for ex-criminals
  • Sealing a record is not enough—it does not provide a true clean slate and any agency required to conduct a background check can still see the conviction: they just don’t reply that such a thing publicly exists
  • The bill contains sufficient safeguards to ensure we are truly dealing with more minor offenses and that criminal activity has ceased

In Further Detail: If you have a criminal record of any kind, you are going to struggle more in our society. Nearly 90% of employers, 80% of landlords, and 60% of colleges do criminal screens. Multiple state regulations impose restrictions on hiring someone with a criminal history. So why not just seal the record? Employers required by law to do background checks can still see sealed records. So can law enforcement agencies and state attorneys. It is not a true clean slate. Denying that clean slate makes it harder for us to achieve our main goal: functioning members of society who will not commit future crimes. It also can harm the well-being of the defendant’s family and these harms are disproportionately borne by people of color. The bill contains sufficient safeguards to ensure we are truly talking about more minor offenses where public safety should not be a threat and that we are not expunging the record of anyone who has committed another crime or is suspected of doing so (anyone charged with a  crime that is found not guilty will make a future expungement list, barring other criminal activity). And research suggests that only 4% of expungement recipients are convicted for subsequent crime and only 1% for violent crimes. This is lower than the general population rate. Look at the list of crimes that aren’t eligible if you are concerned about a day care or police station or government agency hiring someone in this manner. It simply is not the case that the crimes they committed are relevant, in particular if they have demonstrated a move away from criminal life. Finally, it is true we have a petition system for sealing (not expunging) records. But this involves the defendant petitioning the court and paying a fee. People may not have the financial resources to pursue this or even know it is possible. According to the Clean Slate Initiative, only 7% of people get their records cleared in some manner.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Any automated system that does not involve a judge making an informed decision can err just because the facts aren’t examined—we trust our judges to make judgments, especially if we are going to in essence lie about the past
  • Sealing versus expungement is a very different thing: sealed records can be used if the defendant later commits more crimes to establish patterns and sealed records also can’t be seen by the vast majority of places we are worried about

In Further Detail: Any automated system is by definition not going to look at the underlying facts of a case. Every case is of course different and instead of offering blanket expungement, a very severe step, we should have judges putting their eyes on these facts. We entrust our judges with making all sorts of judgements and should do so here as well. We are talking about in essence lying to employers, landlords, and everyone else about someone’s past. For the question, “have you ever been convicted of a crime” the real answer here is yes. Now we may have valid reasons for not informing these folks about the true past, but taking such a large step should not be done lightly or automatically. That sort of lie is also true about sealing records, but sealing is also a vastly different step than expungement. Most of the problem we are concerned about: regular employers, landlords, educational institutions, they cannot see sealed records. But the records are still there, if needed in the future by law enforcement or prosecutors, to establish patterns of past behavior. And for places where we are really concerned about having ex-criminals in positions of employment, like law enforcement, hospitals, government jobs, or organizations that require people to work with children, sealing still provides some visibility. Sealing also brings in our petition process—defendants are free to petition the court to have their records sealed. This of course brings in judges to determine if that is in everyone’s best interests. It is a good system.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-074

SB21-138 Improve Brain Injury Support In Criminal Justice System (Coleman (D)) [Sandridge (R), Bacon (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $144,409
Fiscal Impact: $140,000 a year

Goal:

  • Create a pilot program in the department of corrections to screen for brain injuries in inmates and establish vocational rehabilitation and other appropriate services for those with brain injuries. Pilot ends in July 2026
  • Create the Brain Injury Support in the Criminal Justice System task force to support the pilot. The task force must create a model to identify and support individuals with a brain injury in the criminal justice system. Plan must be submitted to the legislature by 2022

Description:

The plan must include the following elements:

  • Brain injury training requirements for corrections employees and who would benefit from the training
  • Training requirements for mental health professionals providing screenings and support
  • Policies and procedures for those screenings, including identification of symptoms to determine deficits and individual strategies, referral to neuropsychological assessment if necessary, implementation of necessary accommodations for the inmate, and referral to appropriate brain injury services outside of the justice system upon the inmate’s release
  • Identification of the necessary contracts between various entities to implement the plan

The state must report to the legislature each year on the pilot program. This must include: best practices for screening at intake and re-entry, best practices for training staff, best practices for providing the services the traumatic brain injury program (already exists) provides (see below), best practices for providing accommodations, and recommendations for additional services to support inmates who screen positive for a brain injury.

The services the traumatic brain injury program provides are: case management, community residential services, structured day program services, psychological and mental health services, prevocational services, supported employment, companion services, respite care, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, physical rehabilitation, and one-time home modifications.

Members of the task force are appointed by the Colorado Brain Injury Trust Fund Board. Task force members are not compensated by can be reimbursed for expenses.

Additional Information:

Task force members are as follows:

  • Director of the traumatic brain injury program
  • Director of the division of probation services
  • Executive director of the department of corrections
  • State public defender
  • Director of the office of community corrections
  • A sheriff or jail administrator
  • A member of the trust fund board
  • A member of a criminal justice advocacy organization
  • An expert in the research and evaluation of brain injuries in the criminal justice system
  • Two members who represent an organization specializing in delivering brain injury services
  • Two members who experienced a brain injury and have been involved in the criminal justice system


Auto-Repeal: July 2024 for task force, July 2026 for pilot

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Traumatic brain injuries are found at a massively higher rate among prison inmates than the general population. While just 8.5% of the general population has one, among inmates that number goes up to an estimated 25%-87%
  • These injuries provide a perfect storm of damage to key functions that help people from committing crime including self-regulation, judgment, and reasoning among others. Among inmates they are linked with poorer outcomes and reoffending after release from prison
  • We have over 100,000 inmates in Colorado and even helping a little bit in this area could make an enormous difference. The bill provides a framework to begin attacking the problem to ensure we go about this in the right way. The entire state will benefit from any successes we achieve so it will be well worth the effort

In Further Detail: About 8.5% of the general population have a traumatic brain injury but among inmates in the criminal justice that number skyrockets from an estimated 25%-87%. These injuries can affect a person’s ability to self-regulate, plan, organize, exercise judgment, reason, and problem-solve. They can cause emotional and behavior changes, including increased agitation, depression, and irritability. In short, they are nearly a perfect cocktail for creating a person more likely to break the law and end up in jail. And they are linked with poorer outcomes in jail, including violence, other infractions, poorer treatment gains, and higher rights of reoffending when released. We have over 100,000 inmates in Colorado. A University of Denver study found an average of 54% of adults in the system with traumatic brain injury history with a range of 27% to 97% depending on the setting. Let’s take the lower number, 27%. That’s 27,000 people who need more help to have a fighting chance at a real life outside of prison. Since we are basically starting from a near zero baseline of care for this specific type of injury, we need a bit of ramping up and that usually means a pilot. We need guidance on implementing best practices and that usually means a task force or committee of experts. This bill provides both. The potential for benefitting our community as whole is enormous. There is no magic bullet or panacea, treatment is not a cure. But helping even a little bit can greatly improve the lives of these people, give them a chance at a life outside the justice system, and improve public safety for everyone.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Since this has the potential to be such a critical tool in our efforts to rehabilitate inmates, we ought to direct more resources at it. The bill is no doubt right that quite a bit can be accomplished with the money the department of corrections already receives, since this will build up on existing health screening and vocational programs and an existing traumatic brain injury program. But we are leaving quite a bit up to the department in implementing this pilot, we should put some money behind it and beef up reporting requirements on exactly what is being done

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-138

SB21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes (Lee (D)) [Bacon (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $2,798,098
Fiscal Impact: About $9.7 million saved each year

Goal:

  • Require the state to enroll any inmate being released from prison (including those being paroled) that is 65 or older in Medicare or other appropriate public health insurance (like VA coverage) or an individual private insurance plan, whichever offers more immediate and comprehensive coverage. State must pay all premiums and enrollment costs for one year six months. It may continue past one year six months if the person is still under the jurisdiction of corrections and would otherwise be uninsured or underinsured
  • Requires corrections to develop a recommend parole plan for every inmate prior to a parole hearing that includes at minimum, an approved sponsor or other housing option and a continuity of care plan for inmates with medical or behavioral health care needs
  • Expand definition of special needs prisoners by removing requirement that they be over 55 years old, allowing diagnosis by private licensed health care providers (previously has to be employed by corrections or under contract with them), and removing requirement the individual be a threat to public safety which is replaced by requirement the individual has serious impairment that limits their ability to function. The need to not pose a risk to the community is only considered when deciding on granting parole, not to be a special needs inmate. Bill also allows inmates to request a determination if they meet the criteria (must be carried out within 30 days). Requires state to develop polices for special needs parole to ensure designating someone as special needs is done in the proper manner and communicated to parole board (see Description)
  • Give one day of earned time to every inmate in corrections per day they were incarcerated during the COVID-19 declared state of emergency, up to the maximum amount permitted by law (10 days per month, sentence cannot be reduced by more than 25%). Anyone who committed a class 1 code of penal discipline violation during the COVID emergency is not eligible

Description:

Bars state from putting any conditions on release that would interfere with an individual who is Medicaid eligible from using their Medicaid benefits.

Corrections must develop parole plans even if it cannot provide a potential parole sponsor. If the state cannot come up with an adequate plan, it must inform the parole board with a written explanation as to why.

Bill does add an additional exemption to the special needs parole designation for those serving convictions of class 1 felonies without the possibility of parole. But adds that those suffering from a terminal illness that will likely result in death within a year can be designated as special needs parolees regardless of the exemptions (they must still of course meet special needs criteria).

State policies around determining special needs eligibility and parole plans must include: clearly defined roles for employees and contractors with adequate training and performance measures, timely identification of special needs inmates, adequate tracking and quality assurance so that referrals and re-referrals to the parole board are done in a timely manner and that parole plans are submitted prior to parole hearings, formal mechanisms to ensure parole board gets any information it needs in a timely manner, and data collection and sharing between corrections and the parole board to monitor status of referrals and applications and board decisions, and a meaningful appeals process for inmates who the state determines do not meet the special needs criteria.

Bill removes the ability for corrections to include their own recommendation on parole and instead include a statement from the inmate or an inmate’s representative if the inmate is not capable. Bill requires the state to provide a copy of all of the information given to the board to the inmate (or again, an inmate’s representative if the inmate is not capable), except for the victim impact statement and response from the district attorney. The inmate or inmate’s representative then has 30 days to submit additional medical information or other records to the parole board.

Bill bans parole boards from denying release due to the lack of a complete parole plan, if there is not one then the board must delay its hearing and give corrections 30 days to supply one.

Bill allows the use of the Centennial south campus facility during declared disaster emergencies that impact state prison operations. Right now it can only be used to facilitate the movement of inmates displaced by prison closures and for close custody inmates when the facility is ready to house them.

Requires the Colorado Commission on Aging to study and make recommendations on health insurance options for released offenders over 65 and how corrections would need to operate to ensure these individuals receive coverage, potential challenges and gaps to the program, and any other recommendations. Report due by January 2022.

Requires corrections to study the effectiveness of the current youth offender system (convicted of a violent felony between 14 and 17 or age 18 or 19 at time of offense and convicted prior to 21st birthday). Must consider all relevant research on effective programming and alternative models. Must also study expanding the program up to age 25. Report due by December 2021.

Additional Information:

For considering special needs parole, the bill rewrites the paragraph dealing with re-offense risk, medical condition, criminal history, and institutional conduct to instead focus on risk and needs assessment scores and include inmate participation in any programs, treatment, vocational training, or education. Risk factor scores are part of a realignment of assessing threat to the community created by bills in previous sessions.

State may also provide an expedited process for parole applications for inmates that are new arrivals at Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center or the central transportation unit and are past or within 90 days of the inmate’s parole date.

Corrections must include in its monthly report, by facility, the number of special needs parole applications submitted to the board, the board’s decision, pending applications and average length of time they have been pending and the reason for the delay if known.

Requires the state public defender office to provide liaisons to corrections and the parole board for assisting with legal matters related to detainers, bonds, holds, competency, special needs parole applications, commutation applications, or other criminal-related legal matters that could impact successful reentry into society. When parole board members suspect an inmate is not competent to proceed or has a mental health problem, they must contact a public defender liaison to assist with the coming court proceedings.

Require training of all staff in youth services (juvenile corrections) to be completed within 45 days of employment. Prior to receiving training staff may not work directly with juveniles and must be supervised by a trained staff member when interacting with any young adult offenders (over 18) at the facility.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The state’s job is come up with a parole plan that maximizes the chances for success, which means no re-offending. So requiring an individualized parole plan before considering parole is simply requiring the state to do its job
  • Since the goal is to prevent re-offense, then it makes sense to try to ensure secure housing and medical care, as both of those things are fundamental to a stable life. This is particularly true of behavioral health needs. The cost of the health care premiums required by the bill will be more than made up for by the savings in the rest of the bill
  • Special needs eligibility should be based on special needs, not age or threat to society. The parole board makes that final decision, just as they would for any other inmate
  • COVID was devasting on our prisons, with more than half of our inmates infected, community and educational programs shut down, and no access to family visits. This was an extraordinary hardship and should qualify for earned sentence reductions. Legal maximums of days per year and sentence reductions still apply

In Further Detail: The parole plan part of this bill is simply requiring the state to do its job, which is to create a plan for any inmate released on parole. Since our prime goal is to prevent re-offense, it makes sense to require some sort of sense of what the housing situation will be for the parolee, as secure housing is one of the primary foundations to get in place to prevent re-offense. The continuity of care portion of this fits right in with the idea of ensuring people have insurance and that special needs parolees have the services they need. One of the other foundations of a stable life is access to health care, and in particular for those with behavioral health needs, lack of access can again lead to a higher likelihood of re-offense. The health care the bill requires the state to pay for is more than covered by the savings of having to pay for fewer prisoners created by the rest of the bill. Our current law for special needs parole is putting the wrong requirements in the wrong place. Eligibility for parole has nothing to do with if you pose a danger to public safety or not, that is determined when deciding whether to grant parole and most critically, it is determined by the parole board. So the bill does the correct thing by making eligibility simply a matter of having special needs, and removes the age limit (which does not make much sense to require). Of course the parole board is still capable of denying parole based on the same decision criteria they use for other inmates. And a medical opinion is a medical opinion, there is no reason to exclude valid opinions because they come from outside the department. The COVID earned time is a simple recognition of the wrong we have done inmates in this state over the course of the pandemic. It is believed that more than half (HALF!) of people held in prison in this state contracted COVID-19. 32 prisoners died. Instead of prioritizing this vulnerable population of people for the vaccine, we made them wait to match the requirements placed on the general population. Meanwhile educational and community programs in these facilities virtually ceased and inmates were not able to visit with their families. This was a time of extraordinary hardship and these inmates have certainly earned their time for sentence reductions. The maximum allowed per year still applies and the 25% maximum sentence reduction still applies too. Most of the rest of the bill is simple blocking and tackling that the state needs to do in order to coordinate its parole efforts.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • It is not our responsibility to pay for these health care costs, part of being out in society is supporting yourself. It also may cost more than the fiscal note estimates if the state keeps paying these premiums past one year to prevent people from being uninsured (as the bill allows)
  • Earned time is a great incentive for good behavior. A blanket provision like the one in this bill undoes that entirely by granting it to everyone. Even worse, it grants to inmates who exhibited bad behavior in the past year who in no shape or form earned time off their sentences. It also grants it to all inmates, regardless of what crime they committed

In Further Detail: The state should absolutely coordinate care for people who need it once they are released but it is not our responsibility to pay for it. Part of being out in society is supporting yourself. So sure, help folks sign up for Medicare who are eligible but the state needs to be done paying for these folks’ expenses. It may also cost more than the fiscal note is estimating. The note estimates roughly $900,000 and only 9 months of payments, but the bill allows the state to keep paying premiums after a year six months if not doing so would cause someone to become uninsured. That seems fairly likely to happen so that $900,000 may not churn through the system but instead become additive each year, even if most people’s insurance is no longer paid for after a year it will still make that number rise. On the COVID earned time, earned time is something we give for good behavior. It is a great way to incentivize good behavior and reward inmates. A blanket provision like this slashes away at all of that, rewarding inmates who not only may have done nothing to deserve it, but may have actually achieved demerits for poor behavior. Even state’s criminal justice reform coalition, when it asked the governor to basically do this by executive order, wanted to exclude inmates who committed a class 1 penal infraction. Furthermore, the bill gives this earned time to every single inmate, regardless of the crime they committed. For the special needs changes, if someone is a danger to society they shouldn’t be out on parole, so if someone with special needs might be a danger to society we don’t need to go through the trouble of considering them for parole.


Bottom Line:

  • The bill no longer gives earned time to inmates during COVID. COVID was devasting on our prisons, with more than half of our inmates infected, community and educational programs shut down, and no access to family visits. This was an extraordinary hardship and should qualify for earned sentence reductions. Legal maximums of days per year and sentence reductions still apply and the bill had been amended to remove consideration for those who committed class 1 penal infractions

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-146

SB21-153 Department of Corrections Offender Identification Assistance Program (Coleman (D), Cooke (R)) [Ortiz (D), Tipper (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Requires the state to help inmates obtain state-issued identification cards (driver’s licenses would be prime example) for those who do not have valid ones. Currently this is a more informal partnership between the department of corrections and department of revenue based on a state regulation, not a law. State is required as part of intake to review each offender’s ID status and the options available to them. Also required to do an annual review of whether each offender scheduled for release within the next five years has valid, unexpired state ID. Program is optional for offenders

Description:

Current law already requires state agencies to waive associated fees for offenders.

Assistance can include transporting the inmate to an office that issues ID cards, requesting necessary ID documents on their behalf from state records, assisting with online ordering, and assisting with obtaining necessary documentation the offender lacks, such as birth certificates or social security numbers.

When the offender is released, the state is to give them any identification documents obtained under this law and their state ID card.

Department of revenue is to collaborate with the department of corrections and the state is enter into agreements with the federal social security administration as necessary to make the program work. It must start working by 2022 July so that any participant in the program has a state-issued ID card upon release.

State is to publicly post on its website the number of offenders in prior year who were eligible for this program and the number that participated in the program and were released with state ID cards.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Identification is almost essential to modern life, with a whole range of activities such as opening a bank account or securing a credit card requiring one, so it benefits the state to help those who need it obtain one and it particularly helps to ensure recently released offenders have them so they have the best chance of reintegrating into society and not reoffending
  • Getting an ID can be hard if you are missing key documentation and can be costly
  • The more informal program this makes into law has been extremely effective since it began about 10 years ago. Enshrining this in law protects the program from future administration changes and helps us reach even more offenders

In Further Detail: The list of things you cannot do with a valid government issued ID is long. You cannot open a bank account. You cannot obtain a credit card. There are many jobs you could not obtain without one. You cannot rent an apartment. It is literally essential to living in the United States in 2021. Yet many people do not have an ID and it is actually pretty hard to get one if you are missing some key documents, like a birth certificate. Many forms of ID require some other form of ID to acquire, and so people are left with a difficult web to untangle. We want to give recently released offenders every chance at successfully rebuilding their lives and becoming productive members of society. Sending them out without valid ID is counterproductive in the extreme. So spending some state time and effort on helping them is worthwhile as is waving state fees. This program has already been extremely successful: in 2013 23% of offenders were released with state ID and in 2019 we reached 79% (2020 saw a slight drop due to COVID issues). Giving it foundation in state law ensures it is protected from future executive branch changes and has a more secure funding position. It also may help us push to get as much of the remaining 20% IDs as possible by streamlining the process.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • It appears there are more systematic problems with the remaining group that might require expansion or work with an outside non-profit

In Further Detail: According to the department of corrections, of the 1,315 people in 2019 who were released without an ID, only 488 were not eligible for the program. Those people should be helped by this bill. Just 158 refused, they would be unaffected. That leaves 669 people, or ½ of the group, who were unsuccessful in obtaining their ID. That indicates a problem that simply putting this into law will not solve—and it is likely due to the factors discussed in Arguments For: missing birth certificates can be extremely hard to replace, so much so that there are non-profits that only exist to help people obtain government-issued IDs. So we might need to partner with one of those non-profits to help for these harder cases.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-153

SB21-273 Pre-trial Reform (Lee (D), Moreno (D)) [Benavidez (D), Bacon (D)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Going to be a net positive, but no estimate made on reduction of prison population so cannot estimate

Goal:

End monetary bail for offenses below class 4 felonies unless public safety or flight is a concern. Require personal recognizance bonds instead of monetary requirements for failure to appear in court (except for repeated failures or witness interference) and violation of probation (except for repeated violations or risk of flight or failure to do mandated treatment). Forbid police officers from arresting someone and bringing them to jail for anything below a felony except in very specific instances. Encourage sheriffs to keep their prison populations as low as possible.

Description:

Ends use of monetary bail for any offenses below the level of class 4 felonies unless the court can find on the record that cash bail is the only way to either ensure the defendant does not flee or does not threaten the safety of others. The bill does not prohibit the use of pre-hearing release policies that require monetary payment for release (this would be before a judge issued a ruling).

Courts must also issue personal recognizance bonds when a defendant fails to appear in court when scheduled unless the failure occurred when a witness was prepared to testify, the failure was for the purpose of interfering with or deterring witness participation in the case, or the defendant has failed to appear two one or more times. Personal recognizance bonds must also be issued for failure to comply with probation when the underlying case is not criminal unless the violation was for court-ordered treatment related to a sex offense or domestic violence, the defendant already had probation revoked for failure to comply in the case, or the court finds the defendant is likely to flee prosecution.

Citizenship status is not alone evidence of future intent to flee nor is simple past non-appearance in court.

Forbids police officers from performing what is called custodial arrest (arresting someone and bringing them to a jail where they will stay until they get a hearing) for offenses under the felony level unless it is required by law, the officer cannot verify the suspect’s identification without arresting them, the offense is a DUI, the offense is a victim’s rights crime (most of these are already felonies but those that aren’t deal with sex crimes, stalking, violating protection orders, and crimes against witnesses) the offense includes an element of illegal possession or use of a deadly weapon, the offense is a sexually-related offense, the offense is a violation of a extreme risk protection order, the offense is a credible threat to a school, the offense is a class 1 misdemeanor or misdemeanor escape from prison and the suspect has been charged or convicted with the same offense more than twice in the past six months, the offense is cruelty to animals, or the offense is eluding police in a vehicle . Bill specifically states that no review is required to ensure compliance with this section and it does not create any right to sue for violation of this section or have a case or evidence thrown out of court.

Encourage sheriffs to actively manage their jail populations to keep them as low as possible, including granting authority to test admission standards based on specific offenses. Requires each county jail to submit an annual report to the state with their daily average population, highest one-day population count, and number of inmates who have one previous conviction and number with two or more previous convictions. Each judicial district must also submit an annual report to the state with the number of failures to appear in the year, number of personal recognizance bonds issued for both misdemeanors and felonies and number of cash bonds for both categories, number of defendants who appeared based on summons, number of failures to appear for someone on a personal recognizance bond, and number of people on personal recognizance bonds who had new and unrelated criminal charges filed against them while out on bond.

After a reconsideration hearing or denial of one for bond conditions, either side may seek review of the court’s order by filing an appeal in appellate court. Petition must be filed within 3 days and include transcript (unless that is not available then an audio recording). Opposing party has 7 days to respond unless additional time is allowed by court for good cause. Appellate court can remand back to trial court if it finds inadequate justification for decision, order modifications of bond, order modifications and another hearing, or dismiss the petition. This appeal does not stay the underlying criminal proceedings.

Creates a working group to study and propose statewide legislation to safety increase community response instead of law enforcement engagement for lower-level offenses and calls for service where no criminal conduct is alleged. This must include welfare checks, mental and behavioral health crises, homelessness, substance abuse, traffic offenses, municipal offenses, drug offenses, and lower level misdemeanors and felonies that do not create an immediate safety threat. Report due by February 2022.

Additional Information:

In its definition of custodial arrest, the bill excludes officers who are transporting a person to a jail facility for reasons other than holding them there (like getting physical evidence such a fingerprints or DNA or executing a blood-alcohol test) and excludes transport to a hospital or behavioral or mental health facility unless the officer intends to put them in jail upon discharge.

Working group formed by executive director of department of public safety and must include: a representative from the state district attorney’s council, a representative of an organization representing the chiefs of police, a representative of an organization representing county sheriffs, a representative of the office of the state public defender, a representative of a non-profit organization that provides direct services to crime survivors, a representative of a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of people with mental and behavioral health disorders, a representative of a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of people experiencing homelessness, a representative of a non-profit organization that advocates for increasing community response instead of law enforcement, a representative of a non-profit organization that advocates for increased racial justice in the criminal justice system, a representative from the judicial department, someone from a non-profit substance use provider, a representative of the bail bond industry, someone from the attorney general's office, someone from the division of adult parole, someone from the probation division, someone from the state court adminstrator's office, and an individual who has been or is the family member of someone who has been arrested for a lower-level offense.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We are an innocent before proven guilty society, we should act like it. The high cost of bail (and bail bonds) can be an impossible barrier for lower-income defendants. This means they will lose their job, maybe their housing, and maybe even custody of their children
  • Half of all arrests in the state are for non-violent crimes where there is no threat posed to public safety and it is these seemingly low-level interactions that have turned deadly far too often, since 2017 the majority of law enforcement killings in Colorado began in response to a low-level alleged offense, traffic violation, mental health call, or situation where no crime was alleged
  • COVID related actions to limit prison populations have shown this can work
  • Keeping people in prison for no good reason wastes taxpayer money
  • Both of the previous two points extend perfectly to not arresting people and tossing them in jail pending a hearing for no good reason

In Further Detail: It is a bedrock principle of our criminal justice system that we assume people are innocent until we prove that they are guilty in a court of law. We definitely don’t act that in practice. On any given day before COVID a full 1/5 of the US prison population, 450,000 people, are in jail awaiting trial. The vast majority of them don’t need to be there. They aren’t going to flee, they aren’t there for violent offenses or offenses that might pose a danger to others. Instead they are potentially going to have their lives ruined, before being convicted of anything. They may lose their home, their job, even custody of a child. And the threat of this provides significant leverage to prosecutors. A study in Philadelphia found that assigning bail makes defendants 12% more likely to get convicted. Because people are pushed to plead guilty to low level offenses (or even higher ones) so they can get of jail. And when it comes to arrests instead of summons, 71% of all arrests in Colorado are for non-violent crimes that pose no threat to public safety. These very interactions are the beginning of many horrible stories about people dying at the hands of police. The majority of law enforcement killings in Colorado since 2017 began in response to a low-level alleged offense, traffic violation, mental health call, or situation where no crime was alleged. George Floyd was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Elijah McClain was stopped because someone thought he “looked sketchy” and called police. Jack Jaquez was followed home because a cop thought he was a burglar. Eric Garner was approached on suspicion of illegally selling cigarettes. All of this is of course a massive waste of taxpayer resources. We spent $960 million of state taxpayer money on keeping people in jail last year. And we’ve learned from actions local officials have taken during COVID to minimize the number of people in jail that this can work. The state’s jail bookings fell by 46% as a result and are still down 35%. That level of decrease over an entire year would save us $170 million. We should only use monetary bond when it is actually necessary, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to any arrest or based on whatever the prosecutor wants. And bond should never be leveraged into getting a guilty plea. Prosecutors are perfectly able to argue in court that any particular case should be granted special exemption due to risk and judges are free to accept those arguments. As for the approach taken last year (mentioned in Arguments Against), a screening tool is a costly mechanism to essentially land in the same place.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Judges already have discretion to deny monetary bail demands from prosecutors, we should let them keep it
  • Public safety and welfare come before concerns about money, so we shouldn’t come into this looking to find savings
  • We can use time limits on arrest detention prior to a hearing to cut-down on the time people spend in jail after being arrested
  • The bill provides no discretion for the officer to arrest someone if they feel there is a danger to public safety
  • People understandably don’t want to lose their bail money, so it is a valuable tool for getting people appear in court—as is simply arresting them

In Further Detail: Our system already gives judges discretion on bail—we should allow them to keep using it rather then put into place blanket rules that are difficult to overcome. Public safety and welfare have to come before all other concerns, including the state spending money to keep people in prison before trial. So we shouldn’t come into this looking to save money. If we need to spend $960 million a year to keep Coloradans safe, then that’s the price tag. On the arrest vs. summons angle, officers can already issue summons for misdemeanor offenses rather than utilizing arrest. This bill changes this to a requirement and completely removes the ability for officers to exercise their judgment to protect public safety (and their own). A different way to approach the arrest/detention problem is to set a time limit on detention prior to getting a hearing, which has been a goal of some in the legislature for a few years and is likely to appear as a bill at some point this year. Just 48 hours is not going to ruin anyone’s life and provides enough time for the system to determine the true nature of potential threats to public safety. On the failure to appear angle, the threat of losing money is a valuable tool for getting people to appear in court. This isn’t like missing an appointment at the dentist. The entire court system has prepared for the proceeding the defendant knew about and missed. This not only wastes time, but wastes resources. Again, judges have discretion in this area, let them use it.


Bottom Line:

  • This diverges widely from the approach taken just last year to this same topic, which was to develop a pre-trial risk assessment screening tool to determine who does and does not need monetary bail

In Further Detail: Last year a bill was introduced that was also about reducing use of monetary bail, but instead of blanket bans and vague notions of threat, it required the state to develop an actual screening tool for everyone to use, partially to prevent a patchwork of rules and systems from developing throughout the state. It also had built-in anti-bias mechanisms to ensure that non-monetary bail was being applied equitably across the entire system. We need to have an approach along those lines.


Bottom Line:

  • George Floyd was suspected of committing a felony, not a misdemeanor. The first version of this bill during this session including low-level non-violent felonies. This bill should too

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-273