February 21, 2017

After a light sentence draws outrage, Sen. Irene Aguilar wants to change how sex offenders are sentenced in Colorado

2-21-17 Colorado:

When a Boulder judge determined Austin Wilkerson wouldn’t spend a day in prison for raping an acquaintance, the decision drew national outrage. The judge cited Colorado’s indeterminate sentencing laws in rendering his decision. He feared Wilkerson would spend the rest of his life in prison if he walked through those doors.

A bill in the Colorado Senate would let judges opt for fixed prison terms for certain sex offenses instead of the “indeterminate,” potentially lifelong sentences these crimes carry now. Another would require that “low-risk” offenders be allowed to pursue treatment outside of prison if they’re not getting it in prison by the time they’re eligible for parole.

Both bills are sponsored by state Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat.

“The problem that the judge stated — where we have a huge backlog of people awaiting treatment and people not getting paroled and then this influences how judges sentence people made me concerned we’re having unintended consequences,” Aguilar said. ” … I hope people would see that we’ve gone perhaps a step too far with our law.”

Some prosecutors believe Aguilar’s proposed fix is itself a step too far in response to what are ultimately isolated incidents. Indeterminate sentencing serves an important function, and there are other solutions to the treatment backlog, they said.

“We don’t need to get rid of all of indeterminate sentencing to be reactive to a few cases,” said Katharina Booth, first assistant district attorney in Boulder County and head of that office’s sex assault unit.

Booth believes the legislation represents an attempt by defense attorneys to exploit outrage over the Wilkerson case to get something they’ve wanted for a long time, which is an end to indeterminate sentencing. ..Continued.. by Erica Meltzer

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