Presentation from the Department of Corrections
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
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01:22 PM -- Presentation from the Department of Corrections
Representative Ferrandino, called the meeting back to order. Ari Zavares, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC), reported on the state of the department's budget and the services offered by the department. A copy of the department's presentation is provided as Attachment E. He shared his professional background. He also discussed the size of the department in terms of number of employees, number of facilities, programs offered, and budget. Mr. Zavares discussed the department's programs in relation to their impact on recidivism rates and the relationship between recidivism and crime rates. He also reported on trends in prison population growth, indicating that the rate of growth has slowed in recent years and has declined for some populations.
Mr. Zavares continued by discussing the mission of the department which is to reduce recidivism. He also commented on the profile of individuals in prison and relayed some statistics on prisoner attacks on officers and other offenders as well as trends in the number of prison lock-downs. Mr. Zavares also discussed the rise in prisoners with mental illness and gang activity in prisons and noted that there is a high percent of offenders with substance abuse problems.
Karl Spiecker, Chief Financial Officer, DOC, discussed the department's budget. He noted that the budget has increased faster than population growth in recent years. Mr. Spiecker also indicated that budget growth is driven by inmate and parole population growth. He also indicated that the number of department employees has been reduced and educational programs have been cut due to budget cuts in the recent past. He described the impact of these cuts on recidivism rates and public safety.
In response to a question by Representative Court, Mr. Spiecker and Mr. Zavares indicated that inmates are not eligible for Medicaid (including mental health services) while in prison pursuant to federal law. In response to another question by Representative Court, Mr. Zavares noted that the Colorado Commission on Juvenile Justice is addressing issues related to sentencing and reducing the number of inmates without impacting public safety. Mr. Zavares also noted that sentencing report would not affect the current budget because it has longer term affects.
In response to a question from Ms. Boigon, Mr. Zavares offered statistics on recidivism rates and offered to provide additional details in a written report.
Mr. Zavares discussed the relationship between increasing funding for specific programs and the effect on recidivism rates. He indicated that the focus of the department has been on "honor pods," where offenders are rewarded for positive behavior while in prison and on parole. Concluding their presentation, Mr. Fagan and Mr. Zavares encouraged legislators to tour corrections facilities in the state.