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Colorado prison population fell in 2020, increase expected

January 4, 2021 GMT

DENVER (AP) — Colorado has significantly lowered its state prison population in the past year, but analysts expect the number of inmates will increase again.

The state said the inmate population has declined 16.4% since February, down to about 16,000 people from around 20,000 in recent years, The Denver Post reported Saturday.

The vacancy rate in state prisons increased from 1% in February to 25% in November.

The prison population peaked at 23,000 inmates in 2009, and the state expects the population to reach a record 25,000 in 2025.

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The state projects the population figure will fall to 15,767 in 2021 before rising to close to 17,000 by 2023, nonpartisan legislative economist Elizabeth Ramey told the state Joint Budget Committee.

Contributing factors to the decrease include the release of prisoners deemed to be low-risk and a 2019 bill to reduce penalties on drug possession charges.

The early effects of the reduction bill, which became law, coincided with the arrival of coronavirus in Colorado.

The state reported district court drug felony case filings were down 61.7% in 11 months, a far greater decline than reported for filings related to property crime, violent crime and all others.