POSITION IN BRIEF:

Support of non-partisan selection of judges on an appointive-retentive basis. Support of measures which facilitate efficient administration of justice rather than incarceration for nonviolent offenders. Support of sentencing measures that protect the community, compensate victims and the community for the crimes of adult offenders, rehabilitate offenders, and emphasize the use of community-based sanctions

POSITION: (Adopted 1978, rev. 1993)

Support of:

Judges:

  • Nonpartisan selection of judges on an appointive/retentive basis (reaffirmed in 1977).
  • Mandatory training for judges as soon as possible after appointment, including such training as courtroom administration, available sentencing alternatives and court room procedures.
  • A program of continuing education, preferably required, for judges.

State Support of Services:

  • State support of district and county courts.

Community Corrections:

  • Support of community corrections as an alternative to state institutionalization for criminal offenders selected by careful screening procedures.

Department of Corrections:

  • Measures which promote redirection of the inmates’ lives by providing incentives and opportunities for them to understand their behavior and to cope with societal demands.
  • Measures which promote an ongoing diagnostic and screening process to assure proper classification and program placement.
  • Measures which include programs that promote both work and educational experiences.
  • Measures which provide a humane and safe environment for inmates and staff.
  • Mandatory training for all correctional personnel.
  • Education should be an option for inmates, at least on a part-time basis.

Correctional Industries Program:

  • The program should have an advisory board which should include representatives of private industry.
  • Industries’ programs should provide participants with marketable job skills.
  • Supervisors should be competent in the work process.
  • The product or service produced should be marketable.
  • Inmates must perform acceptably.
  • Pay scale and employment hours should allow the inmate some choice.

Sentencing: (Adopted 1993)

  • After considering both aggravating and mitigating circumstances, judges should use the least costly form of punishment consistent with the crime and the offender. Prison should be used primarily for violent offenders.
  • The state should consider developing and using sentencing guidelines to ensure statewide judicial consistency in sentencing.
  • Offenders should have equal access to adequate legal representation and treatment of offenders should be free of discrimination.
  • The array of education and treatment services needed by offenders in prisons and in communities should be adequately funded. These services include basic education, job training, treatment for abuse of alcohol and drugs, and health and mental health care.

Prison Overcrowding (Adopted 1993)

Prison overcrowding should be alleviated through:

  • Expanding the use of intermediate sanctions for nonviolent offenders and in parole revocation for technical violations. Intermediate sanctions include community corrections, community service, electronic monitoring, intensive supervision probation, restitution, work release, fines, and required community-based treatment for use of alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Increasing the use of boot camp for offenders who agree to participate in this program.
  • Allowing judges greater discretion in determining the place* of sentence by reducing the number of offenses that require mandatory prison sentences.

*Note: Felony offenders can be sentenced to the Department of Corrections (prison) or to the custody of the Judicial Department (probation).

RELATED LWVUS POSITIONS:

Death Penalty (LWVUS Position, Adopted 2006)
The League of Women Voters of the United States supports the abolition of the death penalty.

Sentencing (LWVUS Position, Adopted 2012)
The LWVUS believes alternatives to imprisonment should be explored and utilized, taking into consideration the circumstances and nature of the crime. The LWVUS opposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

HISTORY

The Colorado judicial system is regarded as a model for other states. This was one of the first states to implement merit selection and tenure in its court system.

In 1966 the LWVCO and the Colorado Bar Association sponsored successful passage of a constitutional amendment which provided for two judicial commissions: 1) to make recommendations to the Governor for the selection of judges for the Supreme Court and the District Court, and 2) to investigate and resolve disciplinary matters concerning alleged judicial willful misconduct or failure to perform duties. The system was further refined in 1979 by legislation (supported by League) directing the Judicial Department to develop a plan for the evaluation of judges seeking retention in office. By 1988 LWVCO supported and the Legislature enacted legislation to establish state and district commissions to evaluate judicial performance prior to elections for the retention of justices and judges. Retention recommendations are printed in the Blue Book for each election, and also are available online. LWVCO has consistently opposed bills that call for the direct election of judges.

The 1977 LWVCO Convention adopted the study “Colorado Corrections System with emphasis on goals, programs, facilities, and funding of adult corrections.” Prison industries were investigated for their rehabilitative value, as well as cost effectiveness. The study and a new consensus were adopted in 1978.

In 1987 LWVCO supported successful legislation which increased the salaries of judges in the state court system, increased the number of judges on the Court of Appeals, mandated the development of risk assessment guidelines for the parole board, provided for an information exchange about parolees and prisoners and facilitated the tracking of offenders through the system.

In 1990 League supported legislation, enacted by the legislature, designed to ease prison overcrowding by allocating funds to build an additional prison, establish pre-parole facilities and programs, and expand diversion programs and community corrections. The 1991 LWVCO State Convention adopted a two-year program to restudy the justice system to develop positions on sentencing and prison overcrowding. The scope of the study was limited to adult offenders.

LWVCO supported the creation of a non-partisan Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice in 2007 to undertake a comprehensive analysis of Colorado’s criminal code, sentencing laws, prevention programs and other aspects of the criminal justice system. The purpose was to focus on recidivism reduction initiatives and cost-effective expenditure of limited criminal justice funds. Through 2011, bills on sentencing reform, re-entry of individuals into the community from jail and prison, reforms to parole guidelines, and changes to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) have passed on the recommendation of the Commission and with League support.

In 2006 at the Convention of the League of Women Voters of the US, delegates voted to concur with a position adopted by the LWV of Illinois, resulting in the position: The League of Women Voters of the United States supports the abolition of the death penalty. LWVCO supported a bill in the 2013 session to repeal the death penalty in Colorado, although it invoked the safety clause and thus did not allow for the option of a public referendum. The bill was defeated when the Governor and others expressed concern about the lack of focused community conversations about the death penalty. A second bill that would have referred the issue to the ballot was then pulled by the sponsor.

At the 2012 LWVUS convention, delegates adopted by concurrence a position to address alternatives to imprisonment and mandatory sentencing for drug offenses. The position is based on the Sentencing Policy of the LWV of the District of Columbia.

In 2015 Colorado joined most other states in making repeat Driving Under the Influence (DUI) convictions a felony offense. League supported this law, which makes a fourth DUI conviction a Class 4 felony. In addition, fines for DUI have been raised from the $600-1,500 range to $2,000-500,000 in order to offset the added cost of felony incarcerations.