Criminal and Social
“We’re living through a challenging time in our nation’s history right now, but I know that if we work hard, we can create a bright future for every Coloradan.”
– Jared Polis, Democrat for Governor
President Trump’s assault on our values and communities calls for bold leaders at the state level to build upon the progress we made under the leadership of President Barack Obama. Colorado needs to lead the way in building diversity in our economy that creates jobs and increases wages, but also reduces the racial wealth gap. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute has found that average white wealth is seven times higher than for African American families. That makes saving for retirement, buying a home, or providing higher education opportunities to children a difficult task. I will work to address this growing crisis and make Colorado a state where communities of color will succeed.
We must rededicate ourselves to a mission of building equitable access to opportunity so that everyone has the means to live a good life:
Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission
I will not entertain any dismantling of Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission, nor will I ever sign a law that diminishes or otherwise harms the ability of people of color to cast a vote. Voting is a right and everyone should have a chance to let their voice be heard in our democracy.
Racial Disparities In Our Government
I’m committed to tackling the racial disparities in our government. I’ll request that my Cabinet studies Colorado’s current laws and rules to identify pervasive policies that suppress communities of color. Not only will my office aggressively challenge legal and economic injustice, but I pledge to be an open, accessible, and honest partner in solving this problem.
Addressing Racial And Systematic Disparities
Every child in Colorado deserves a quality education, regardless of race, background, personal experience or the neighborhood they come from. I am committed to working with districts throughout the state to make sure opportunities for both teachers and students of color are equitable and fair. Additionally, I will work with the Commissioner of Education to ensure there is a plan for minority children to succeed academically from pre-k to 12, and in preparation for college. We will make sure that racial and systematic disparities are addressed adequately.
Subcommittee Of Civil Rights And Education
A recent study of Colorado’s disciplinary practices in our schools found that when compared to white students, African American students are 4.1 times more likely to be suspended and 3.4 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement, Native American students are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended and 3.2 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement, and Latinos are twice as likely to be suspended and referred to law enforcement. Being arrested in school has the potential to double the chances of a student dropping out, which exasperates the “school to prison pipeline.” I will create a subcommittee of civil rights and education leaders under the commission tasked with creating a blueprint for Colorado schools to end disciplinary practices that disproportionally expel or suspend children of color as punishment in our classrooms.
End Investment In Private Prisons
I understand the need for criminal justice reform. I will end our investment in private prisons and reinvest those dollars into rehabilitation, diversion, alternative and restorative justice programs. A criminal record can be a barrier to getting a job and housing and those factors greatly contribute to recidivism of inmates. Also, many prisons are located in rural areas and supply jobs to entire communities. We will reinvest in economic development of rural Colorado communities in a way that provides for sustainable economic growth without dependency on incarceration to support Colorado towns. We know that incarceration of family members can be emotionally and financially taxing on loved ones, and it’s important that we identify and end predatory practices in our prisons. My administration will prioritize ensuring that the Department of Corrections puts people over profits so that Colorado never prices services for inmates, such as phone calls, in excess of what is statutorily allowed or necessary for operation.
Racial Disparities In Our Prison Population
At the same time, we will work to address racial disparities in our prison population. Addressing institutionalized racism, including police brutality, is paramount in rebuilding trust in our communities and in ensuring that the law is enforced fairly across our state. My administration will continue the difficult negotiations to completely address civil asset forfeiture reform following 2017’s groundbreaking legislation on the subject and the resulting task force’s recommendations on how to protect due-process while keeping the public safe.
Our nation’s drug policies continue to disproportionately harm African Americans. I’m proud to be the only candidate in this race that publicly supported the ballot measure to legalize marijuana, and I have fought hard to declassify marijuana as a Schedule I drug in Congress. Colorado can choose a better way and lead the nation in dismantling injustice in all corners of our government, and that includes looking at pardons for those convicted of nonviolent marijuana charges. We will also take measures to ensure racial equity across both the laws and prosecution practices in the effort to combat drug abuse.
The last time Colorado exercised the death penalty was in 1997, and since then we have continued to learn about the impact that inherent biases and high costs can have on its application. If the legislature sends me a bill to repeal the death penalty, I will sign it.
Reducing Barriers For Finding Safe And Quality Homes
We will create fair and equitable housing laws in our state that reduce barriers for people of color to find a safe and quality home, and for retirees and low-income Coloradans to stay in the communities they love. For example, landlords shouldn’t be allowed to charge application fees when they know that they have no vacancy, and renters would benefit from disclosure of the condition of their new home before signing a lease. And, in Colorado, an eviction on your record can be a permanent barrier to securing housing later on in life. I will work to reform our eviction laws to be more humane.
Improving Infrastructure Consciously
When we pursue opportunities to improve infrastructure, we must be cautious to not do so in a way that forces people out of their homes, destroys property values, or changes the essential character of a neighborhood. Improvements to our infrastructure and neighborhoods that push people out of their communities are policy failures, and are not rooted in valuing the lives of those most-often impacted: lower income communities, African Americans, Latinos, and long-time residents of our neighborhoods.
A recent article in The New York Times highlighted that, “commercial bail has grown into a $2 billion industry,” and preys on those who cannot afford to pay a bond company’s fee. Bond agents have broad legal authority to arrest clients, charge high fees, and engage in what amounts to extortion. Those who can’t afford bail often spend extended bouts of time in prison as they await trial. For our criminal justice system to operate at a high level and prioritize public safety, we must not allow someone’s economic status to be a likely determinant of their outcome in court. As governor, I will seek to limit the use of cash bail in our state for nonviolent offenders as well as speeding up the process for trial proceedings to occur.
Reducing The Cap For Annual Interest Rates
High interest rates, high fees, and short timelines for repayment are hallmarks of payday lending – a practice that can trap consumers in debt for years. For example, a loan worth $392 can result in $119 in fees and interest. In fact, payday loans have a $50 million impact on Coloradans across the state who are struggling to make ends meet. Colorado’s Attorney General’s office has found that people of color are disproportionately targeted by lenders in our state, and the Center for Responsible Lending has found that majority-minority areas in Colorado are twice as likely to have a payday lending business in their community. In 2010, Colorado passed landmark legislation curtailing the predatory practices of lenders, but lenders and borrowers have found loopholes. I support current efforts to reduce the cap for annual interest rates of these lenders from the astronomically high average of 129 percent to 36 percent, which is the cap on rates that Congress determined lenders are allowed to charge for members of the military.
Diversity is a Strength
I will conduct an executive branch-wide review of appointments and staffing of our governing boards and commissions to ensure their racial representation mirrors our state’s demographics and regions. I will actively seek to hire qualified people of color for important positions, and will have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind in our state’s hiring policies. Diversity is a strength that we cannot do without.