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Colorado criminal justice commission to shut down

Colorado lawmakers decided not to reauthorize the influential commission
colorado state capitol
Posted at 12:22 PM, May 15, 2023

DENVER — An influential state commission that has helped Colorado leaders shape criminal justice policy for 15 years is shutting down.

A bill to reauthorize the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) was postponed indefinitely by the House Judiciary Committee.

It means the CCJJ will finish its work and dissolve this summer.

The commission, which is comprised of state officials and community members representing a variety of perspectives, has helped craft many criminal justice policies since lawmakers created it in 2007.

Most recently, Gov. Jared Polis asked the commission to help develop strategies to crack down on auto theft in Colorado.

The commission came up with a list of recommendations for a bill to make all auto thefts a felony, regardless of a vehicle’s value.

The bill passed both chambers and was sent to the governor.

But many lawmakers saw problems with the CCJJ.

“Part of what we saw with the CCJJ in its current structure were a lot of long meetings, often during work hours, which made it very difficult for members of the public to participate,” said State Sen. Julie Gonzales. “And it just became pretty cumbersome and difficult for everyday Coloradans to keep track of what was actually happening.”

Gonzales was among the lawmakers pushing for the commission to be shut down.

She also sits on the commission and says the 30-member body lacks diversity and has become too political.

“I don't shy away from political conversations. But I do want for evidence-backed and data-driven policies to really be able to be vetted thoroughly from a broad cast of characters,” said Gonzales.

But others say it’s lawmakers who have become too political.

The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council (CDAC), which is also represented on the commission, fought against letting the commission expire.

But their arguments did little to persuade progressive lawmakers who were against reauthorization.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to postpone a bill reauthorizing the commission indefinitely.

“It is incredibly disappointing and puzzling that the same House Judiciary Committee that just last week openly lauded the importance of and value of the long history of success and collaboration of the CCJJ now finds, in a party-line vote, that the commission is unworthy of continuation,” the CDAC said in a statement.

As for what’s next, Gonzales wants to see another commission or task force that’s free from politics and more open to the public.

“Our next legislative session begins in January. I'm sure that conversations will unfold between now and next January,” said Gonzales.

According to the commission’s website, it will conclude all work by June 30.