How Dangerous Is the Budget Crisis?

September 2 2009, 12:13 PM

You know the budget is in bad shape when politicians no longer have the stomachs to get tough on crime. Actually, they no longer have the wallets. In an effort to help pare down the state's roughly $320 million deficit, Colorado officials plan to release 15 percent of prison inmates early (via 9News). The move, which will put 3,500 of the state's 23,000 inmates on the streets over the next two years, will save about $45 million, according to prison officials. Moreover, another 2,600 parolees---about 21 percent of the offenders on parole---will be released from intensive supervision. The Associated Press takes a different angle: "Budget cuts accelerate prison reform in Colorado." While that's a unique way of looking at it, take note that law enforcement is also feeling the pinch. Governor Bill Ritter, for example, has announced that he will divert more than $1.3 million from drunken driving efforts to ease the deficit, reports The Denver Post. That means this Labor Day's "Heat Is On" campaign against drunken driving could be the last to get funding for a while. As Stacey Stegman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, puts it, "We're not going to be able to maintain the same level of DUI enforcement in Colorado." Meanwhile, the size of the Denver police could be reduced due to their union refusing to delay raises and Mayor John Hickenlooper refusing to give in. Instead, he is looking at ways to restructure the department so that officers prioritize the streets if the force is cut back, according to the Post. But the freshly unemployed shouldn't look for work hauling trash around the University of Colorado. Because of a tight budget there, CU's flagship-campus employees will now have to take out their own trash, writes the Daily Camera.