Breaking Down Barriers: Program decriminalizes addiction by emphasizing recovery, not jail

Breaking Down Barriers: Program decriminalizes addiction by emphasizing recovery, not jail

From the Las Vegas Optic

ALAMOSA, Colo. — They are struggling, often at the lowest point in their lives. Then they’re arrested. Charged with a crime, they face fines, fees and maybe even a lengthy sentence behind bars.

They come from varied backgrounds and walks of life. The events that led them into the courtroom are nuanced. Nevertheless, they face a rigid system predicated on the notion that, no matter the reasons behind their actions, those who’ve committed a crime must be punished. One rural Colorado town is rethinking this approach though.

Sandwiched between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains, Alamosa lies in the center of southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

Originally built around the railroad, with lines connecting passengers to Denver and Santa Fe, today, its roughly 10,000 residents enjoy well-maintained downtown streets that are lined with a mix of buildings from the late-1800s to modern storefronts. The sidewalks are clean and lined with public art installations, and on the eastern edge of downtown, the Rio Grande flows past City Hall as it twists south toward New Mexico.