County’s community corrections praised

Alternative sentencing program ranked No. 1 in Colorado, report says

By MIKE WIGGINS
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A new report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety ranks Mesa County’s community corrections program higher than any other alternative sentencing program in the state.

The Community Corrections Risk Factor Analysis analyzes and compares 32 similar programs in Colorado and ranks them based on 25 measures such as escape rates, recidivism, offender monitoring and staff training and turnover. This is the fifth report produced by the state Division of Criminal Justice since 2003.

Officials audited each community corrections program and assigned them scores in each of the 25 measures based on state standards. Programs that perform below state standards accumulated more risk factor points.

Mesa County’s program accumulated the fewest points — 5.2 percent — of any program in the state. Larimer County’s community corrections program ranked just behind Mesa County at 5.4 percent. Garfield County ranked 13th at 19.5 percent. At 39.6 percent, the Longmont Community Treatment Center ranked last among community corrections programs that aren’t new.

“We’re pretty pleased with the results,” said Dennis Berry, director of the Mesa County Criminal Justice Services Department, which oversees community corrections.

Berry attributed the program’s high ranking in part to the fact that it’s run by the county, rather than a private business. Most of the 32 programs audited by the state are privately owned.

“There’s a commitment from the commissioners and the local criminal justice community to do what’s best for the clients, not necessarily what’s cheapest,” Berry said, adding that the scores can be “an indication of some of the stability you get with a government operation.”

He said the county program works hard to ensure clients are held accountable.

They’re offered on-site treatment and classes.

Berry also noted that the county enjoys a good relationship with local employers who hire community corrections clients.

“Some communities don’t have that kind of relationship,” he said. “(Businesses) know what they’re getting with us, but they’re willing to work with these guys and train them and advance them.”

Department of Public Safety spokesman Lance Clem said the report is intended to be a “yardstick measurement, not a blessing for the best or the worst community corrections facility.”

“It indicates in terms of this yardstick, these are the community corrections programs right now that you can sort of use reliably,” Clem said.


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