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Dept. of Corrections director to address recidivism in legislative committee

Posted: 5:23 PM, Jul 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-15 20:43:44-04
Colorado lawmakers will meet for an interim committee on prison populations this month

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers aren't in session during the summer, but various interim committees keep lawmakers busy to come up with possible legislation the next time they convene.

In a week, three Representatives and three Senators will meet to discuss how to best manage the state's prison population. Additionally nine leaders from various state agencies and organizations will sit on the committee to give their input.

Among the state leaders, is the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections- Dean Williams.

"The stakes are too high, not just in terms of prison population but public safety," Williams said. He adds one of the biggest issues he wants to address with lawmakers is coming up with solutions to lower the recidivism rate, or the rate of prisoners who return to prison.

"My entire job every day is to figure out what we're going to do about the recidivism rates," said Williams, "you can't talk about prison populations without talking about recidivism."

One of the plans Williams hope lawmakers will look into are programs that focus on jobs, housing, and integrating prisoners into society after they've served their time.

"It's not a matter of being softer or being nicer to people who are getting out of prison, we just want them to have a job, a place to stay, something to eat," said Williams.

The state's prisons are nearly at full capacity. It's a problem across the United States, as state governments work to manage these populations. In Colorado, Williams says the recidivism rate is about 50 percent.

"We can change what the definition of incarceration is," Williams said, "for people who are trying, I say if you're one of the knuckleheads and you don't get it then you're going to spend every single day behind the walls and that's fine."

This past session lawmakers made changes for parole eligibility, as well as utilizing the Centennial Correctional Facility in the event the state vacancy rate stays below one percent for two months. There are also discussions to permanently reopen the prison in Canon City- Williams says he and Governor Jared Polis don't believe that's the best course of action.