By Jody Shadduck-McNally
Words matter. The words we use to communicate can keep a conversation going or have it end in divisiveness. The Board of Larimer County Commissioners recently partnered with the CSU Center for Public Deliberation to host Building Community through Conversation and Curiosity: Moving Beyond our Divides. We received great feedback from the participants about the process, discussion, and what divides our thoughts.
The group was asked to give a value ranking using a group of words. Many in the group discovered they had different definitions for these words. Words are powerful and it confirmed to me that how we communicate using language is important for our community. What’s in a name is important.
It’s one of the reasons why we recently celebrated the renaming of Criminal Justice Services to Community Justice Alternatives or CJA. The people who receive services from CJA are also members of our community, and there is a lot of healing taking place through the many programs they offer. We’re celebrating a new era for Community Justice Alternatives in Larimer County, and we are proud to provide innovative, industry-leading programs that provide alternatives to incarceration for our community members.
Part of the innovation in these programs is due to many different entities working together toward a common goal. Larimer County has prioritized investment in our Alternative Sentencing and Community Corrections programs, understanding that it makes financial sense for the county to invest in alternatives to incarceration, but it’s also the right thing to do for our community. Of course, incarceration is the most appropriate sentence for those cases for violent, serious offenders. Public safety and victim safety is always a priority.
During our recent renaming ceremony to CJA, we also previewed the expansion of the Larimer County Alternative Sentencing building, which will create an all-female, 170-bed facility for both Community Corrections and Alternative Sentencing programs. Again, a name matters and clarifies the numerous community services provided to the clients of Community Corrections and Alternative Sentencing.
The expansion adds just over 50,000 square feet bringing the total to over 100,000 square feet to increase the capacity of alternative sentencing programs and adequately provide rehabilitation and treatment. The hope is to provide the gender-responsive, trauma-informed services necessary for our justice-involved women to gain stability, rebuild relationships, and transition back into our community in a healthy way. When the new facility is complete it will save over 729,000 jail bed days each year and save the taxpayers millions of dollars with better outcomes.
Words do matter and with this new name, we hope to share our vision for Community Justice Alternatives and our partnerships for a brighter future for Larimer County.
Jody Shadduck-McNally is a Larimer County commissioner representing all of Larimer County