Improve Prison Release Outcomes
The act changes the eligibility criteria for inmates who are eligible for special needs parole. The act allows an inmate to request that the department of corrections (DOC) determine whether the inmate is eligible for special needs parole. The act requires the DOC, in consultation with the parole board, to develop policies and procedures related to special needs parole. The act allows the inmate to include a statement in the referral packet for special needs parole and an opportunity to provide any additional relevant information in the referral packet. The act requires the parole board to consider the age of the inmate and the DOC's ability to provide adequate medical and behavioral health treatment to the inmate in granting or denying special needs parole. The parole board cannot deny special needs parole based solely on the lack of a recommended parole plan.
The act requires the DOC to:
- Develop a recommended parole plan for every inmate prior to release from prison;
- Develop policies and procedures related to prerelease planning; and
- Include in its monthly population report information related to delayed parole decisions.
The act prohibits the parole board from denying parole based solely on the lack of a recommended parole plan.
The act requires the office of the state public defender to provide liaisons to the DOC and the parole board to assist in criminal-related legal matters that would impact successful reentry. The act requires the DOC or a member of the parole board to suspend a parole hearing if they believe the offender is incompetent to proceed or has a mental health disorder and notify the public defender parole liaison of the situation. In the case of incompetency, the liaison shall file a motion to determine competency with the trial court that imposed the sentence. In the case of a mental health disorder, the liaison shall help the inmate obtain counsel if a civil commitment hearing is warranted.
The act requires the DOC to ensure that any inmate who is 65 years of age or older and is being released from prison is enrolled in medicare or health insurance if the offender would not be covered by another health insurance policy prior to release or upon release, whichever will offer more immediate and comprehensive health-care coverage. The DOC shall pay any insurance premiums and penalties for up to 6 months from the start of coverage. The DOC may provide financial assistance for longer than 6 months if the person is still under the jurisdiction of the DOC and would otherwise be uninsured or underinsured without that financial assistance. The act requires the Colorado commission on the aging to study and make recommendations related to health care for inmates who are 65 years of age or older and being released from prison and provide the report prior to January 1, 2022.
The act makes conforming changes to align with the new offense of unauthorized absence. The act requires the parole board to schedule a parole hearing for an inmate serving a sentence for escape or attempt to escape, the elements of which would now constitute the offense of unauthorized absence.
The act requires all youthful offender system (YOS) staff to be trained in the first 45 days of employment. The act repeals the requirement that district attorneys keep records of all juveniles sentenced to the YOS.
The act requires the DOC to conduct a study with external experts regarding the effectiveness of the YOS and the potential of expanding the system to serve offenders up to age 25 years old.
The act allows the Colorado state penitentiary II to be used to house inmates to facilitate movement of prisoners during a declared disaster emergency that impacts state prison operations.
For fiscal year 2021-22, the general assembly shall appropriate $1,167,297 to the community-based reentry services cash fund from the savings from this act. For fiscal year 2022-23, the general assembly shall appropriate $1,481,622 to the community-based reentry services cash fund from the savings from this act.
The act adjusts the long act appropriations to the DOC by decreasing the general fund appropriation to the external capacity subprogram by $2,815,470 and by decreasing the general fund appropriation by $314,630 for external medical services. To implement the act, the act appropriates:
- $2,798,098 to the department of corrections;
- $30,307 to the department of law;
- $229,220 to the office of the governor;
- $157,760 to the judicial department; and
- $50,000 to the department of human services.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)