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Denver Democrats - Criminal Justice - Justice
Denver Democrats - Criminal Justice - Man in Prison
Denver Democrats - Criminal Justice - No Justice No Peace
Denver Democrats - Criminal Justice - Supreme Court

Criminal Justice

    • Incarcerate less. Colorado incarcerates too many people for too long. Colorado today incarcerates about 425 people per 100,000 population. That rate is less than the U.S. average, historically the highest in the world, of 629. But Colorado’s rate is four times the rate for Canada or the United Kingdom, and more than five times the rate for Germany.

    • Revisit long sentences. We support a “second look” law that could reopen cases for inmates serving lengthy sentences for non-violent crimes. There are many model prisoners who have been locked up for decades with no way to adjust their sentences. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann says she has deserving cases brought to her, but she has no legal basis to act.

    • Expand restorative justice. The Denver District Attorney’s office has developed restorative justice programs with local partners, but it is a miniscule program in need of significant new funding.

    • Expand the juvenile category. Consider raising the age of criminal responsibility to ensure that young offenders are treated in a developmentally appropriate manner, and expand diversion programs to keep youth out of the traditional justice system and provide alternatives for rehabilitation.

    • Reduce cash bail requirements. We think an overhaul of the bail system is sorely needed  because it disproportionately affects low-income individuals. We have a two-tier system that favors the well off and consigns the poor to a debtor’s prison. Increasingly we question the legitimacy of the cash bail system.

    • Expand PR bonds. In a study of Denver’s practices during the pandemic, when an increased number of arrested people were granted personal recognizance (PR) bonds to reduce the infection risk in jails, DU researchers found that cash bail and PR bonded individuals showed up for court dates at the same rate. Pretrial services and risk assessments should take these findings into account.

    • Bail alternatives. We advocate eliminating cash bail entirely or implementing alternative systems to ensure court appearance without relying on financial means.

    • Stop profiting. We are encouraged by the elimination of some for-profit prisons, and ask that we reassess the reliance on every for-profit entity within the criminal justice system.

    • End mandatory minimums. We support the abolition of mandatory minimum sentences, and trust the judgment of prosecutors, juries, and judges to apply the proper penalty in each case.

    • Restore Sheriff’s Department. Bring the Denver Sheriff's department up to full employment to make jail safer and end mandatory overtime.

    • Reform Sheriff’s Department. Change the discipline policy in the Sheriff's department so that the burden of proof of the infraction is on the department to prove guilt, not to prove innocence by the employee.

    • Prepare inmates for responsibility. The focus during incarceration should be rehabilitation and providing educational and vocational programs from the beginning, not at the end. 

    • Support reentry. Strengthen programs to support individuals returning to their communities, including access to housing, employment, and mental health services.

    • No lockup for drug use.  If incarcerating people for substance use/abuse were ever going to work, it would have worked by now.  We support state-mandated drug rehabilitation in lieu of a jail sentence, for any drug crime where the sentence would otherwise include incarceration. According to the Federal Bureau of prisons, 4 out of 9 inmates are in jail for drug-related offenses.  In Colorado, it is 1 out of 11 prisoners, and that is 1 out of 11 too many.

    • Create Mental Health and Drug Counseling pods. Add pods at the Denver City Jail for Mental Health and for Drug Counseling.

    • Add Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention sites. Expand use of overdose prevention sites and creation of more Harm Reduction Action Centers (HRAC) if necessary.

    • Employ medication assisted treatment. Mandate medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in jails in addition to rehabilitation outside of jails.

    • Provide unarmed assistance. Introducing a firearm into any situation makes that interaction less safe. Unarmed public resource personnel should be dispatched instead of armed police to calls that do not involve any appreciable risk of violence, such as enforcement of concerns around people without homes, and mental health emergencies.

    • Build police/community trust. Employ community policing strategies to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

    • Provide continuous police training. Provide continuing review of use of force policies emphasizing de-escalation techniques and alternative interventions.

    • Expand STAR program. Increase utilization and funding for Support Team Alternative Response (STAR) program and similar initiatives that send counselors and emergency technicians instead of police to non-violent situations.

    • Expand Behavioral health. Make use of Behavioral Health and community safety programs central to public safety and Criminal Justice.

    • Consider the need. Neighborhoods that are disadvantaged need to be provided extra resources.

    • Monitor district attorney data dashboard reports.  We applaud the Denver DA office for participating in the data dashboard program (  which displays felony charges, time to settlement, juvenile and adult diversion and deferment data, including race and ethnicity for each category. From this dashboard we can see racial disparities, and compare Denver with other participating jurisdictions. These reports allow us to identify and address racial disparities.

    • Reduce implicit biases. Address implicit biases within law enforcement and the criminal justice system with comprehensive training programs.

    • Enact more firearm safety laws. Firearms are the leading cause of death for people under 18 in the US.

    • Prohibit assault weapons sales. Assault weapons have no other purpose than to kill a high number of people quickly. These weapons have no legitimate place in our society.

    • Require training for concealed carry. Firearm training should be a condition of concealed carry of firearms.

    • Require insurance. We support mandatory liability insurance for gun owners.

Our criminal justice system should employ proven community safety measures that include access to mental health and addiction services. Safety is achieved when communities trust and not fear the police. True public safety prevents, reduces, and heals harm to strengthen communities. A defendant's finances should not drive pretrial release, access to family, or rehabilitation. Re-entry preparations should begin early and include access to job skills, education, and expungement of decriminalized offenses.

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