Colorado’s prison population was slated to set a record high. Now forecasters say that may not happen. | VailDaily.com

Colorado’s prison population was slated to set a record high. Now forecasters say that may not happen.

The Buena Vista Correctional Facility
RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

A radically revised prison population estimate shows that Colorado will likely avoid setting a new record high number of inmates and could give hope to Colorado lawmakers and advocates hoping to address crowded prisons without expanding bed capacity.

Statisticians in December estimated that Colorado’s prison population would steadily increase and reach more than 24,000 by June 2025, which would have been an all-time record for the state. After a recalculation in May, however, the experts now estimate that the population at that time will be approximately 20,878 — far below the system’s peak population in 2009.

“That’s a fairly significant degree of forecast error, even for this forecast,” Greg Sobetski, a staff forecaster with the legislative council, told a committee of lawmakers and criminal justice experts Monday at a meeting to discuss prison population.

Lawmakers for years have struggled to address a crowded prison system, where extremely low vacancy rates sometimes mean less than a hundred of the state’s 14,500 beds are available and private prisons have been used to house thousands of additional inmates. The issue has created a tug-of-war between a Department of Corrections that has repeatedly asked for millions of dollars to address the problem while lawmakers look for other, less-costly methods to reduce the population such as parole and sentencing reform.

The accuracy of population forecasts has often played at the center of the debates. Repeated calls by the prison system for money to address overcrowding — even as the prison population has steadily fallen since a high of 23,200 in 2009 — have been met with growing skepticism by lawmakers as the worst of the predictions have not been realized.

Read more via The Denver Post.