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Colorado voters could change the state’s criminal justice landscape next year as every district attorney is up for election in November.

As President Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden argue about what criminal justice reform should look like on a national level, more than half of all district attorneys in Colorado will be replaced come the New Year, according to a report by the Denver Post.

Though several incumbents are running unopposed in the Nov. 3 election, many new candidates are running unchallenged in the state’s 22 judicial districts.

The new district attorneys will not only play a part in shaping criminal justice policy in Colorado, but will also affect case-by-case decisions on issues like plea deals, charges, and rehabilitation stints over prison sentences.

Colorado could be one of the first states to see sweeping criminal justice reform with the new class of attorneys entering the scene, as the debate between increased policing or shifting toward community investment, plays out nationally. 

 A topic that has gained national attention is removing cash bails for nonviolent offenders as a way to balance income inequalities in the criminal justice system.

Alonzo Payne is running against an incumbent in southern Colorado. He drew national attention after receiving an endorsement by Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., for his progressive views on criminal justice reform.

“I was getting really upset at the way things were being handled,” Payne told the Denver Post. “It was really criminalization of poverty. I decided I wanted to bring some human compassion to the DA’s office.”

Payne has advocated for the removal of the cash bail system, which he believes unfairly detains individuals who cannot afford bail for their release, while wealthier people are released while awaiting trial.

The former public defender also said the criminal justice system needs to more adequately address issues ranging from mental health to substance abuse assistance. 

“Overzealous and unwarranted prosecutions have put such a strain on our criminal justice system that it is at a breaking point,” Payne said in a statement.

“The county jails are overcrowded and don’t have the resources to act as social worker, counselor and psychiatrist,” he said, adding that issues facing the criminal justice system could lead to civil rights abuses if they are not addressed.

But Coloradans aren’t the only ones voting on criminal justice policies this November.

Trump and Biden attacked each other over the handling of race and criminal justice reform during the final presidential debate.

“No one should be going to jail because they have a drug problem,” Biden said from Thursday night’s debate. “We should fundamentally change the system.”

Biden has said he supports cutting rates of incarceration while investing in resources for formally incarcerated individuals. Biden also threw his support behind calls for additional government oversight and transparency into police activities.


Trump has called for investing more heavily in police and increasing penalties for certain crimes. The president does not support removing cash bail protocols.

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