Colorado has an incarceration rate of 614 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), meaning that it locks up a higher percentage of its people than almost any democracy on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Colorado and why.
Jump to COVID-19 data.
35,000 people from Colorado are behind bars
Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Colorado is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 87,000 different people are booked into local jails in Colorado.
Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years
Also see these Colorado graphs:
Today, Colorado’s incarceration rates stand out internationally
In the U.S., incarceration extends beyond prisons and local jails to include other systems of confinement. The U.S. and state incarceration rates in this graph include people held by these other parts of the justice system, so they may be slightly higher than the commonly reported incarceration rates that only include prisons and jails. Details on the data are available in States of Incarceration: The Global Context. We also have a version of this graph focusing on the incarceration of women.
People of color are overrepresented in prisons and jails
See also our detailed graphs about Whites,
and American Indians/Native Americans
in Colorado prisons and jails.
Colorado's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails
Data on COVID-19 in Colorado jails and prisons
We gave Colorado a failing grade in September 2021 for its response to the coronavirus in prisons, noting that:
- Colorado is one of 13 states that did not explicitly mention incarcerated people in their vaccination rollout plan.
- Colorado failed to utilize one of the most obvious, and easiest, tools for reducing the prison population — stopping prison admissions for technical violations of probation and parole (which are not crimes).
For more detail, see our report States of Emergency. Or check out these other resources:
- During the pandemic, Colorado suspended medical copays for incarcerated people seeking treatment for COVID-like symptoms. It should end these copays completely.
- Our Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic page tracks criminal justice policy responses to the coronavirus all 50 states
- As of late April 2021, only 47% of corrections staff in Colorado prisons had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine
- Colorado is one of only a handful of states that never released details about its plan to vaccinate incarcerated people
- Colorado prisons were still over 100% capacity in December 2020, several months into the pandemic
- How many COVID-19 cases in Colorado communities can be linked to outbreaks in correctional facilities? (data from our report Mass Incarceration, COVID-19, and Community Spread)
- State prison and jail population data for February 2022. (Previous data is available for October 2021, June 2021, February 2021, December 2020, September 2020, August 2020, and May 2020.) Data availability varies by state.
Our other articles about Colorado