DENVER, CO – Two bipartisan laws to allow Coloradans who are incarcerated to earn time off their sentence by pursuing higher education and to expand access to DNA testing after being convicted of a felony are now in effect.
“Education is a proven tool to reduce recidivism and improve public safety because it creates strong, post-sentence pathways for formerly incarcerated Coloradans to thrive after completing their sentence,” said Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista, sponsor of HB23-1037. “It is exciting to see higher education institutions from across the state sign on to work with the Department of Corrections to offer courses to Coloradans who are incarcerated. This bipartisan legislation will help Coloradans have the skills and higher education credits they need to secure a good-paying job after their time is served.”
“Colorado owes incarcerated people more, which is why I am proud to have championed these bills that will help folks in prison prove their innocence and better prepare them for life outside prison,” Senator Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, Sponsor of HB23-1037 and HB23-1034 said. “Enabling petitioners to access post-conviction DNA testing will help folks prove their innocence and allow them to reclaim their freedom, while expanding educational opportunities will reduce recidivism rates and better prepare Coloradans to find good-paying careers once they’ve left prison. I am happy to see these important new laws go into effect, and I look forward to the transformational changes they will bring to incarcerated Coloradans.”
“Wrongful convictions ruin the lives of innocent people across our nation and can lead to cycles of poverty and incarceration that devastate families and perpetuate injustice,” said Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada, sponsor of HB23-1034. “When someone is wrongly convicted, that means the real perpetrator is likely still on the street. This important law makes it easier for those convicted of certain crimes to access post-conviction DNA testing, which can help prove their innocence and identify the actual perpetrator. This law will lead to safer communities and a more just and trusted legal system for Coloradans.”
HB23-1037, sponsored by Representatives Matt Martinez and Rose Pugliese, R-Colorado Springs and Senator Julie Gonzales, allows people who are incarcerated and sentenced for a nonviolent felony offense to reduce their sentence by completing an accredited degree or other credential awarded by an accredited higher education institution while the person is incarcerated in the Department of Corrections.
Specifically, people who are incarcerated can receive 6 months of earned time for an earned credential or a 30 credit hour certificate, one year of earned time for a bachelor's or associate's degree, 18 months of earned time for a master’s degree, and two years for a doctoral degree.
Five Colorado Universities will offer select courses and certificate programs to people who are incarcerated including Adams State University, Trinidad State University, Pueblo Community College, Colorado State University Pueblo and Regis University.
HB23-1034, sponsored by Representatives Lindsey Daugherty and Matt Soper, R-Delta, and Senators Julie Gonzales and Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa, aims to help end wrongful convictions by expanding the use of post-conviction DNA testing.
Specifically, this law expands the eligibility for people to access DNA testing after being convicted of a felony to include those on parole or probation, registered sex offenders, those charged with a felony but not convicted by reason of insanity and those who have completed their felony prison sentence.