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Getting Tough on Crime in Colorado

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1987
The 1985 amendment to Colorado's presumptive sentencing law enacted in 1979 was evaluated in terms of its impacts on sentencing practices and on the prison system.

The 1985 law returned to a form of indeterminacy by doubling the top of the narrow sentencing range for each class of felony. It also returned release discretion to the parole board, requiring that at least half the time be served. The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice estimated that the new law would result in a relatively stable correctional population, because judges would sentence the most serious offenders to longer terms and would reduce the time served for less serious offenders. Data for the impact analysis came from court records in seven judicial districts, interviews with criminal justice system personnel, and a mail survey of judges, district attorneys, defense lawyers, and probation officers. Data analysis showed that the law has not affected plea bargaining or placement decision for convicted offenders. However, recommended sentence lengths have increased 35 percent since 1980, with the greatest increases for repeat and violent offenders. The average sentence length has increased from 63.6 to 93.6 months. The new law has also created the need for 4,250 additional prison cells. Figures, tables, and 1 reference.

Date Published: December 1, 1987