Buried under pandemic-related news is the recent vote by Colorado legislators to close a legal loophole for convicted sex offenders. Early release from prison before finishing their required treatment and subsequent transfer to community corrections is no longer an option.
The Lifetime Supervision Act, passed and enacted by the Colorado General Assembly has made significant changes. Those convicted of felony crimes and serving indeterminate and life sentences must finish their treatment before any parole or transfer to Community Corrections while they under rehabilitation.
The loophole closing legislation was signed into law in early July and applied to those sentences imposed on or after that date.
What are the new rules?
The previous law, in existence for more than 20 years, offered convicted sex offenders the possibility of early release as an option to incarceration. Remaining eligible would require progress in treatment to the point where they are no longer considered a threat to the community.
A spokesman for the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council questioned the safety of releasing individuals without assessments and treatments while living in halfway houses located in residential areas.
The council cited concerns of sexual assault victims who assumed that sentences would be served in full, only to discover the perpetrator’s early release without evaluations. Supporters of the new law claim that technically they remain in custody, just not in the confines of a prison.
The issue brings up the age-old argument of the effectiveness of treatment on sex offenders while balancing that issue with community safety. Some still hold to the belief that the propensity to commit another crime will remain, even with treatment. However, ensuring the security of area residents can also occur through successful rehabilitation. Some may take years. Others may need decades.
Regardless of the nature of any crime, changing sentencing parameters effectively after the fact should concern anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of the law.