Drug felony cases double in six years in Colorado, renewing calls for more treatment and less prison

The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition report, released Monday, also found 75 percent of felony drug filings last year were for simple possession. Of those sentenced last year to prison for drug possession, 84 percent were originally charged only with possession. The increase in drug felony filings appears to have a disproportionate impact on women offenders, the report states.

Two Democrats — Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver and Rep. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs — said the report likely would give ammunition to those opposed to efforts by corrections officials to reopen a closed prison in Cañon City. Lee chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

Herod, Lee and Rep. Cole Wist, a Republican of Centennial, are pushing bipartisan legislation this year to encourage using community corrections beds to handle a projected surge in prison populations.

“We have a different path forward that is possible,” Herod said. Community corrections programs, which are used as an alternative to prison incarceration, are better equipped to get offenders drug rehabilitation and mental health services, she said.

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