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October 25, 2023

Interim Committee Advances Bills to Reduce Recidivism and Improve Public Safety

DENVER, CO - The Recidivism Interim Study Committee today unanimously advanced three bills to improve our understanding of criminal activity by creating a uniform definition of “recidivism”, exploring alternative methods of measuring public safety and desistance from crime, and studying how defendants move through the criminal justice system.

“In order to effectively understand and utilize data on recidivism, we have to start on the same page,” said Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, sponsor of all three bills. “The legislation we’re advancing today will ensure agencies operate with the same definition and understanding of ‘recidivism’, and that the legislature has a comprehensive knowledge of the way Coloradans move through our criminal justice system. With these updates to help us better understand our criminal justice system, we’ll be able to develop more effective legislation that results in just outcomes for Coloradans and safer communities for all.”

“Agencies throughout Colorado use varying definitions for ‘recidivism’, making it more difficult to use as a data point when drafting legislation to address public safety concerns,” said Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista, sponsor of Bill 1 and 3. “We’re streamlining the definition across Colorado agencies to make ‘recidivism’ a useful tool in policy-making and continued evaluation of our justice system to create a safer Colorado.”

Currently, the definition of “recidivism” fluctuates greatly between the Division of Youth Services, Department of Corrections, community corrections, and other agencies. Bill 1, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, Senator Julie Gonzales, and Representatives Judy Amabile and Matthew Martinez, would require the Division of Criminal Justice to create a working group with the purpose of establishing a definition of “recidivism” that can be used by all state entities, making it easier to use data to understand the efficacy of current procedures and legislative or policy changes. 

“Understanding recidivism rates is a useful tool in measuring successful strategies to decrease future criminal activity, and with this legislation, we are considering additional metrics to create meaningful and effective policy,” said Vice Chair Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, sponsor of Bill 1 and 2. “Factors like housing status, education, mental health, and social considerations can contribute to the likelihood of someone committing a crime. By expanding our scope and using a consistent definition of ‘recidivism’, we can identify what factors have a positive influence on individuals so we can reduce crime and slow the revolving door of people in and out of prison.”

“Time and time again, data has shown us that the most successful strategies to decrease crime are comprehensive approaches,” said Senator Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, sponsor of all three bills. “Our new legislation will bring in diverse voices and provide the necessary resources to take a close look at the efficiency of Colorado’s criminal justice system and, going forward, will help us determine more holistic methods to decrease crime and help Coloradans successfully reintegrate into their communities.”

Bill 2, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, Senator Julie Gonzales, and Representative Judy Amabile, would create the Alternative Metrics to Measure Criminal Justice System Performance Working Group to study metrics and methods other than recidivism. These alternative metrics and methods, used in addition to recidivism data, would measure risk-reduction outcomes and life factors that influence successful outcomes, and more effectively determine the efficiency of the criminal justice system.

The working group would be required to submit a report to the House Health and Insurance, House Judiciary, Senate Health and Human Services, and Senate Judiciary committees by July 1, 2025 with a summary of their work and any recommendations.

The committee also voted to advance Bill 3, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, Senator Julie Gonzales, and Representative Matthew Martinez, requiring the Division of Criminal Justice (division) to conduct a study to examine how individuals proceed through the stages of criminal and juvenile justice proceedings, including sentences and alternative sentencing programs, and make recommendations for creating a more efficient system. The division must submit a report of its findings by June 30, 2025.

The three bills will now go to the Legislative Council for approval before being introduced next session. Once introduced in the 2024 session, interim bills will follow the legislative process in the same manner as all other bills.

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