Life-long prison and lengthy sentences are not only immoral, but incredibly expensive, with Colorado spending more than $40,000 a year housing each inmate. This system relies on your emotional reaction and the desire to punish those who have wronged your community. This reaction has led to wide-spread incarceration across America with 2.2 million people behind bars today. This is inexcusable, ineffective, and medieval. Colorado has a chance to be a leader on how we re-think justice and jails, but also on how we approach sentences for those found guilty and what is best for our community to move forward.
We need to put a 5 -year cap on prison sentences with the option of renewing or lengthening a sentence if necessary. Colorado wouldn’t be the first to do this and would follow in the foot steps of Norway who has incarceration rate of just 75 per 100,000 people, compared to 707 people for every 100,000 people in the US.
On top of that, when criminals in Norway leave prison, they stay out. It has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world at 20%. The US has one of the highest: 76.6% of prisoners are re-arrested within five years.
Norway also reexamines what its jails look like which means no bars on the windows, kitchens fully equipped with sharp objects, and friendships between guards and inmates. For Norway, removing people’s freedom is enough of a punishment.
This type of system is more humane, more effective, and saves money for all Coloradans. We can be the only modern Democracy in the world that still executes inmates, as Colorado plans to do to all the inmates awaiting executions in our state (who are all black men), or we can put end this unfair, racist, classist system that is expensive and makes all of us less safe.
Judges would be able to renew a sentence for an prisoner who was particularly dangerous to the community or has shown no signs of rehabilitation and emotional growth. However, it is important to remove the ability to add life-long sentences as an immediate reaction to crimes and add redemption as a necessary component of the criminal justice system.