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.
31,000 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.
Using 2020 census data, we looked at where people in Colorado prisons come from. We found most people in prison come from the state's largest cities, but many of its smallest communities are disproportionately harmed, too.
Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years
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
Colorado's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails
The high cost of being incarcerated in Colorado
Prisons and jails in Colorado are increasingly shifting the cost of incarceration to people behind bars and their families, hiding the true economic costs of mass incarceration:
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).