Legislators in Colorado are considering a novel proposal that would provide recipients of recent prison or jail releases up to $3,000 in financial aid. The goal of SB24-012, the proposed pilot program, is to help sentenced felons reintegrate into society. The program needs participants to be engaged in a workforce service or training program and to have recently been released from prison after being found guilty of a felony.
Empowering Reentry: Colorado Legislators Spearhead ‘Aid for Recently Released Felons’ Bill to Tackle Recidivism
The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Julie Gonzales, Sen. James Coleman, Rep. Mary Young, and Rep. Javier Mabrey, envisions the funds being utilized for basic living expenses. These include necessities like housing, food, health care, hygiene products, clothes, legal proceedings-related financial obligations, transportation, and technology.
Advocates argue that such financial support can be instrumental in preventing individuals from falling back into a life of crime. Shaun Magrath, a convicted felon, shared his experience of benefiting from a similar pilot program during the pandemic. The Aid for Recently Released Felons helped him catch up on rent, obtain a vehicle, and secure employment, highlighting the potential positive impact of such initiatives.
The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and its partners, having distributed over $24 million to more than 10,000 individuals nationwide, are urging Colorado to establish its own version of the program through the passage of SB24-012. Mark Smesrud, the Denver site director for CEO, emphasized that the aid not only aids reintegration into society but also contributes to reducing the recidivism rate.
Controversy Over ‘Aid for Recently Released Felons’ Bill: Colorado Weighs Fiscal Concerns Amidst Potential Recidivism Reduction
However, the Colorado Department of Corrections opposes the bill, deeming it too narrow. Adrienne Sanchez, director of policy and legislative affairs for the department, expressed concerns about the limited scope of the pilot program. According to the Legislative Council Staff, approximately 4,500 Coloradans could participate, with an estimated cost of up to $7.5 million in the first year and $15 million in the second year.
Despite opposition, proponents argue that the pilot program could ultimately save taxpayers money by curbing recidivism, considering the annual cost of around $50,000 to incarcerate one prisoner in Colorado. The fate of the Aid for Recently Released Felons bill awaits further deliberation by the Senate Judiciary Committee.