Throughout the campaign, I heard people say that public safety is one of their most pressing issues. I agree, so I was glad to see voters signify that they want us to keep making progress on criminal justice reforms.
I believe we can best address public safety by focusing on the social determinants of crime and working to reduce recidivism. We need to continue pursuing more humane, forward-looking policies around crime prevention, policing, and incarceration. This is the only way to make our communities safer. It’s slow work. Systems are deeply entrenched and change at all levels is needed.
We have to lean into what we know. We know that a large percentage of people in our jails and prisons have serious mental illness and substance misuse disorders. They need treatment before they offend. Providing it would reduce crime, spare would-be victims, and prevent the expense of incarceration. Some of the reforms passed last year will make strides toward that goal, and there is more work to do. We also know that the most successful prison and jail systems are the most humane. We all want a better return on the tax dollars we put into our justice system. People who serve their sentences should emerge healthier and ready to rejoin society so that they are less likely to reoffend — not the opposite, which is largely what is happening now.
Making progress on these goals is possible, and is in fact the only way to address public safety in a meaningful and lasting way. To that end, I will continue to champion criminal justice legislation. Here are some of the bills I plan to bring in the upcoming session:
Reforms to Competency Procedures | Colorado’s current system of verifying that accused persons are mentally competent to proceed is severely backlogged. People who have not been convicted of any crime can sit in jail for months and even years waiting for “competency restoration.” Many with serious mental illness are held without treatment and just get sicker. I’ll be bringing reforms to both the adult and juvenile systems.
Reduce Child and Incarcerated Parent Separation | This bill seeks ways to maintain the parent-child relationship when a parent is incarcerated. Research shows preserving a child’s relationship with a parent during incarceration benefits both parties. It also benefits society, reducing children’s mental health and anxiety, while lowering recidivism and facilitating parents’ successful return to their communities.
Alternative Sentencing for Pregnant and Postpartum People | This bill seeks to ensure that every person can give birth in a healthy setting, recover from their pregnancy, and care for their newborn regardless of their incarceration status.
Making Prison Phone Calls More Accessible | Colorado families struggle to stay connected with incarcerated loved ones due to the high cost of phone calls. We know that connection is one of the most powerful ways that people heal.
Regulating the Use of Restrictive Practices | This bill, among other aims, limits the use of four-point clinical restraints in our jails and prisons. This recently published Denver Post article discusses the issue and our efforts to bring change.
I have other criminal justice bills in the works, and my colleagues will bring legislation forward as well. I will keep you updated on our efforts and opportunities to participate. — Judy
The 50-year anniversary of Roe vs Wade is recognized on January 22, 2023. I still find it unimaginable that the Supreme Court overturned this precedent last year. Thankfully we live in a state that stands for human rights and choice. After Roe was overturned, the Colorado Assembly passed a law to ensure our citizens have access to safe and legal abortion care. Many of you have written to urge us to do more. I expect to see legislation this session to bring a constitutional ballot measure forward so the voters can firmly guarantee the right to abortion access in Colorado.
A friend wrote to encourage support for Mindful Works, a social enterprise which provides empowering work for individuals striving to overcome obstacles due to mental health challenges. They teach sewing, cooking, as well as communication and basic business skills which are necessary for success in the traditional workforce. Please consider making a gift to Mindful Works. Any amount will help but if you’d like to do something specific, here’s what your money could support:
- $1000 One Month’s Rent and Equipment
- $500 A New Sewing Machine
- $200 Sewing Machine Maintenance and Service
- $100 Ingredients and Skilled Labor for Three Dozen Cookies - $50 Three Hours of Dignified Work
New Laws Taking Effect in 2023
New laws include a higher minimum wage, statewide plastic bag fees, and cage-free eggs. Colorado Public Radio provides this quick overview of several new laws that went into effect on January 1.