OPINION: Enforce stricter sentencing for criminals in Colorado

The age-old saying used to be, “If you commit a crime, you must face the consequences.”

The new reality is nowhere near as impressive as that.

It is a standard procedure for criminals in Colorado to not serve their entire sentence when they go to prison. This fact may come as a surprise to many Coloradans.

Felons, for the most part, may be eligible for parole once they have completed at least half of their sentence. This calculation takes into account the deduction of “earned time,” which is credited to inmates who engage in prison jobs, job training, literacy classes, and other activities that authorities aim to promote. Additionally, credit is given for the time spent in jail while awaiting trial as a defendant.

Hardened criminals often find themselves leaving prison sooner than expected, resulting in a high likelihood of them committing more crimes.

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Colorado’s Legislature is unlikely to take any action to address this issue. Over the years, ruling Democrats have been reducing criminal penalties as part of their party’s “justice reform” agenda, which has been advocated by the party’s fringe. Consequently, this approach increases the likelihood that serious offenders will avoid incarceration altogether.

Unsurprisingly, the legislative majority rejected a bill this week that aimed to enforce convicts serving a larger portion of their court-imposed sentences.

HB24-1127 aimed to ensure that offenders convicted of heinous crimes, such as murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault, serve a substantial portion of their sentence before being considered for parole. Under this proposed legislation, offenders would have been required to serve 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Additionally, individuals with a history of two previous convictions for violent crimes would have been required to serve their entire sentence before being considered for parole.

The House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Mike Weissman of Aurora, voted on Wednesday to kill the bill. Although the bill was not a radical rewrite of current law, it seems that it was too much to ask of the criminal element, according to their apologists.

Law-abiding Coloradans can take solace in the fact that a citizens advocacy group is currently making preparations to petition a remarkably similar proposal onto the statewide ballot.

Colorado’s “Truth in Sentencing” initiative is seeking to empower voters in November to take action where the legislative majority may have fallen short. The initiative aims to hold criminal convicts accountable by demanding transparency and responsibility.

The repercussions of inaction can be devastating. Take the instance of Kenneth Dean Lee. In May, he received a 40-year prison sentence in the 18th Judicial District Court for what the district attorney’s news release referred to as “his most recent attack on a young child.”

Yes, the most recent.

Colorado voters have the responsibility to carry on where the Legislature left off and implement Truth in Sentencing.

According to a news release by Advance Colorado’s Michael Fields, surveys consistently indicate that crime ranks among the top concerns of Coloradans. This statement was made following the failure of the Truth in Sentencing bill in committee.

“We have full confidence in the fact that when given the opportunity, Colorado voters will wholeheartedly support this measure, recognizing it as a powerful tool to ensure that violent criminals stay behind bars for extended periods, effectively keeping our communities safe.”

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