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Colorado Rights Blog

SB21-146: Improve Prison Release Outcomes

Bill Number: SB21-146
Year: 2021
ACLU Position: Support
Sponsors: J. Bacon/P. Lee

Description:

Sections 1 and 2 of the bill change the eligibility criteria for inmates who are eligible for special needs parole. The bill allows an inmate to request that the department of corrections (DOC) determine whether the inmate is eligible for special needs parole. The bill requires the DOC, in consultation with the parole board, to develop policies and procedures related to special needs parole. The bill 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 bill 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.

Sections 3 through 6 of the bill require 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 bill prohibits the parole board from denying parole based solely on
the lack of a recommended parole plan.
The bill requires the office of state public defender to provide
liaisons to DOC and the parole board to assist in criminal-related legal
matters that would impact successful reentry. The bill 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.

Sections 7 and 8 of the bill require 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 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 12 months from the start of coverage. The DOC may provide
financial assistance for longer than 12 months if the person is still under
the jurisdiction of the DOC and would otherwise be uninsured or
underinsured without that financial assistance. The bill 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.

Section 9 of the bill requires the DOC to award one day of earned
time for each day that an inmate was incarcerated during a declared
disaster emergency that impacted prison operations.

Sections 10 through 12 of the bill make conforming changes to
align with the new offense of unauthorized absence. The bill 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.

Section 13 of the bill requires all youthful offender system (YOS)
staff to be trained in the first 45 days of employment. The bill repeals the
requirement that district attorneys keep records of all juveniles sentenced
to the YOS.
The bill 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.

Section 14 of the bill 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


Current Status:

Senate Committee on Judiciary Lay Over Amended (04/15/2021)
Senate Considered House Amendments - Result was to Concur - Repass (06/07/2021)



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