Editor: I have experienced the worst pain possible for any mother. My beloved son, Casson Evans, was only 3-years-old when he died in my arms from a stray bullet. As a survivor of the most devastating crime, I know that the solution to crime is not to invest more of our resources into mass incarceration, and I am tired of hearing law enforcement speak on behalf of survivors when they argue that more police and more prisons will protect us. It didn’t protect Casson or the many other crime victims in my community.
Casson was robbed of the chance to grow up in this world, but I feel a responsibility, in his honor, to build a more just and equal future for our state. This is why I founded the Colorado Crime Survivors Network and why my organization supports Senate Bill 21-062. We believe reducing our jail populations will make us all stronger and safer.
Decades of failed government policies like the War on Drugs have already destroyed too many communities, torn apart too many families and caused too much additional harm. Jails have become our default “solution” to societal issues like homelessness, substance use disorder and mental illness, even though incarceration further destabilizes people by jeopardizing their jobs, housing and healthcare. We have been taught that jails keep us safe, but they are really just debtors’ prisons. Currently, 60% of Coloradans are incarcerated solely because they are too poor to afford the cash bail to buy their freedom. This broken system hurts the most vulnerable and fails us all.
Incarcerating people whose alleged “crimes” are missing a court date, drug use, or sleeping on a park bench does not protect survivors of crime or repair the harm we have suffered. I urge our elected officials to support SB21-062 and stop wasting millions on jailing our neighbors. Instead, we must invest in education, good jobs, substance abuse treatment and more mental health services to strengthen communities and lower crime. For Casson, for Colorado Crime Survivors Network and for all Coloradans, I urge you to support SB21-62.
— Sharletta Evans, via [email protected]