By Tom Gomez
At only 23 Gilbert ‘Cash’ Gonzales has already spent more than ten years of his life in the juvenile and adult prison system. Now Gonzales is facing new charges for escape in Adams County. Those charges, stemming from Gonzales’ decision to walk away from a halfway house, may result in his being sentenced to serve as much as eight additional years should Adams County prosecute him as a habitual offender. Despite the fact that Gilbert was gone only 15 hours, Colorado law allows him to be charged with felony escape after as little as two hours, and gives the DA up to three years to bring the charge. Gilbert learned about Adams County’s decision to prosecute him ten days before his scheduled release from prison, and won’t know if the DA will press a habitual criminal charge against him until he is arraigned and has a chance to meet with his public defender.
Sadly Gilbert’s situation is not unique. According to figures supplied to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition by DOC itself in its monthly population and capacity report, 285 of the 2,030 prisoners housed in Colorado’s community correctional facilities were returned to custody as of January 31, 2010. Many, like Gonzales, will face new felony charges for little more than essentially technical violations of their placement conditions. By contrast of 779 prisoners on I.S.P. (Intensive Supervised Parole) only six were returned to custody during the same period. Meanwhile the decade Gonzales has already spent in custody has now cost the state over $300,000 and there is no end in sight. If Gilbert were to spend the next eight years behind the walls of Colorado’s State prisons, plus and additional three years of mandatory parole, the cost of his incarceration will have run to over $500,000. By then he will be 35 years old and his chances of being able live outside the walls of a prison may be slim to none.