It’s not easy to be a woman. It’s even harder to be a woman in jail. Sadly, there are a lot of women in jail in Colorado. Some of the recent figures show that there are nearly 2,000 women incarcerated in the state. That’s 68 women per 100,000 residents. This shocking figure shows that more attention needs to be paid to women in jail.

Substance abuse is one of the biggest factors for incarceration. More people go to jail for drug and alcohol crimes than other types of crime. That means it’s important to understand the relationship between drugs and alcohol and prison.

This article talks about women in jail in Colorado. It discusses Colorado drug laws and alcohol laws. It also explains Colorado’s drug court and female jails. Then it offers some tips on what to do if you’ve been charged with a drug-related crime. Finally, it explains what Denver Women’s Recovery can do to help keep you out of jail.

Colorado Drug Laws

Most people know that Colorado was the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. But that doesn’t mean that other drugs are legal. The state uses a scheduling system for drugs. It’s modeled after the federal drug schedules.

The schedules are number 1-5 (I-V). The lower the number, the more dangerous the drug is.  For example, here’s the schedules in order with some examples of drugs.

Schedule I: Heroin, LSD, Dorsomorphin

Schedule II: Codeine, Cocaine, Methamphetamine

Schedule III: Ketamine, Hydrocodone, Steroids

Schedule IV: Valium, Xanax

Schedule V: Buprenorphine

The penalties for possessing illegal drugs vary. It depends on the drug. It also depends on the amount you have. But you can face a long jail sentence for even small amounts of Schedule I or Schedule II drugs. You can get more information on Colorado’s drug laws here.

Colorado Marijuana Laws

There’s some confusion about Colorado’s marijuana laws. It is legal to buy and use marijuana for recreation in the state. But there are limits.

There’s no penalty for having less than 1 ounce of the substance. Possessing 1-2 ounces carries a $100 fine and is considered a “petty offense”. Possessing 2-6 ounces is a class 2 misdemeanor. 6 – 12 ounces of the drug is a class 1 misdemeanor and can result in 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

There are also laws against using marijuana publicly. Open and public displays or uses of less than 2 ounces is a petty offense. The penalty is up to 15 days in jail and/or a $100 fine.

It’s also possible to be charged with a felony for marijuana in Colorado. That happens if you have more than 12 ounces of the drug. It also happens if you have more than 3 ounces of marijuana concentrate. It’s a class 6 felony.

Also, since recreational marijuana was legalized, there’s another consideration. Some people might try to take legal marijuana from Colorado to another state. But that is a crime. Not only that, it’s a federal crime instead of a state crime. It can result in federal drug trafficking charges, depending on how much marijuana you have.

Alcohol Laws & DUI

Many people forget that alcohol is a drug. That’s because it’s legal. It’s also part of American culture. But you can still go to jail for alcohol-related crimes. Also, alcohol can lead to other crimes. People are more likely to engage in a crime when they’re drunk. That’s because their thought processes are clouded. As a result, alcohol can still cause you to go to jail.

Colorado Alcohol Laws

It’s illegal to possess or consume alcohol if you’re under 21 in Colorado. That’s the same as the law in every other state and US territory. It’s also illegal to provide alcohol to minors. The punishments for these crimes depend on several factors. But they can include steep fines and jail time.

There is one important difference that Colorado has to other states. It doesn’t have a law against public intoxication. In fact, the state has legislation that prevents local governments from passing laws against public intoxication. It’s treated as a public health issue. The state doesn’t view it as a criminal issue.

That doesn’t mean you can’t go to jail for being drunk. There are other laws regulating behavior while you’re intoxicated. For example, you can’t be in possession of a gun while you’re drunk. Also, the police can charge you for any crimes you commit while impaired.

DUI Laws

The DUI laws in Colorado are similar to other states. The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08%. But you can also be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired, or DWAI. This happens when your BAC is greater than or equal to .05% but is less than .08%.

Also, it’s illegal for someone under 21 to drive with a BAC of .02% or greater. That essentially means anyone under 21 can’t have any drinks. This is because of the way that the body processes alcohol.

Determining Your BAC

It’s important for women to understand how to determine their BAC. Many people simply go by how they feel. But that’s not an accurate way to tell how drunk you are.

There are lots of factors that influence your BAC. They include body type, height, weight, metabolism, liver health, genetics, and other health issues. Biological sex also plays a large role. Women’s bodies process alcohol differently than men’s bodies do. Generally, one drink contributes .03% to your BAC for women. Also, women’s bodies process that .03% in about 1.5 hours.

You can use this rough estimation to get an idea of what your BAC is. For example, assume a woman has 3 drinks in 3 hours. Each drink adds .03% to the BAC. That means the total is .09%. However, they also remove ~.03% every 1.5 hours. That means, over 3 hours, they’ll process .06%. Therefore, this person’s BAC is probably around .03%.

The rate at which the female body process alcohol means it’s easier for women to get alcohol poisoning.  This condition shows as slow, irregular breathing, a low body temperature, vomiting, seizures, and loss of consciousness. It’s a dangerous situation to be in. It’s especially dangerous for women, as they are more likely to be assaulted or sexually assault while drunk.

The penalties for DUI and DWAI change. They change based on how many times you’ve been convicted of the crime. These charts show the different DWAI/DUI penalties in Colorado.


1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense
Jail Up to 180 Days Up to 1 Year Up to 1 Year
Fines Up to $500 Up to $1,500 Up to $1,000
License Suspension N/A 1 Year 2 Years
Interlock Ignition Device No Yes Yes


1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense
Jail Up to 1 Year Up to 1 Year Up to 1 Year
Fines Up to $1,000 Up to $1,500 Up to $1,500
License Suspension 9 Months 1 Year 2 Years
Interlock Ignition Device No Yes Yes

Colorado DUI Statistics

Drunk driving is a large problem in Colorado. It caused about one-third of the state’s driving fatalities in 2017. Specifically, impaired driving killed 226 people in the state. That’s out of 629 total traffic fatalities.

Also, there were many more DUI arrests in 2017 than previous years. There were 10,359 arrests during DUI enforcement events in 2017. That’s a 42% increase from 2016, when there were 7,279 arrests.

There’s no information available that breaks those numbers down by gender. But there are some general statics we can apply. Men are charged with 4 out of every 5 DUIs. That means, on average, women get 20% of all DUI charges. If that ratio is accurate, then about 2,070 of the 2017 arrests were women. That’s still a very high number.

Drug Court in Colorado

Colorado created the drug court program 20 years ago. The goal is to help drug users get the help they need. Before drug court, all drug crimes were prosecuted like any other crime. But policy makers realized that this was not an effective approach.

The recidivism rate, the number of people who go back to jail after getting out, was very high for drug crimes. Drug court seeks to stop this cycle.

Understanding the Drug Court Process

People go to the drug court program following a reference from their attorney. A probation officer can also refer people. Once they’ve been referred, a person goes through a screening process.

A team looks at the person’s case. They decide if the person can benefit from treatment. They also evaluate how willing a person is to get better. Treatment begins immediately when someone is accepted.

There are three phases to the drug court structure. Each phase lasts for at least 90 days.

This is the initial phase. It includes intensive treatment and drug and alcohol monitoring. The person must also meet weekly with a probation officer. They also need to appear at a drug court review twice a month. Finally, the person must perform a certain amount of community service.

Phase II is the second phase of drug court. It includes all the requirements from Phase I. But the meetings are less frequent. That goes for court appearances too. This phase is also where a payment schedule is created. The payments go toward the court costs.

Phase III is the final phase of drug court. It happens when all the requirements from the other two phases are finished. That includes paying court costs. It also includes completing community service obligations. The meetings with a probation officer are also less frequent. The same is true for appearances at the court.

How Colorado Drug Court Works

Drug court is an excellent way to prevent more women in jail in the state. It uses rewards and punishments. Some of the punishments might include returning to an earlier phase of the program. A person might be required to do inpatient treatment or live in a halfway house. Punishments can also include more alcohol and drug screenings, meetings with probation officers, and court appearances.

The program also has rewards for progress and good behavior. Some of the rewards are reduced community service requirements, reduced testing, gift cards, verbal praise in court, and permission to travel. These rewards give people an incentive to follow the program.

There’s one more reward as well. People that complete drug court don’t have any other punishments. That means there’s no jail time. There’s also no large fines. This system helps women avoid going back to jail. It also helps women get clean and stay clean. As a result, they can lead happier, healthier lives.

Colorado Good Samaritan Law

One important drug law to know is the 911 Good Samaritan Law. This law means that a person can’t be charged for a crime if they call emergency services for someone having a drug or alcohol overdose. This law covers the person that makes the call. It also covers the person who overdosed.

This law is meant to save lives. The recent opioid epidemic hit Colorado hard. The state had 558 opioid overdose deaths in 2017. That total includes legal and illegal opioids.

The law means that there’s no reason to avoid getting emergency help. You’re protected from prosecution. Getting emergency services could be the difference between life and death. This law makes it easier to save a life.

Colorado Female Jails

There’s no complete list of female jails or prisons in Colorado. There are some places that are female only. For example, Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. There’s also the Colorado Women’s Prison. But there are female sections of jails and prisons across the state.

The state uses two types of jail facilities. There are state-run prisons and private prisons. There’s no way to know where you’ll be assigned if you’re convicted of drug charges. Some of the facilities have a bad reputation. Also, some facilities offer more programs for inmates than others.

There’s another issue with female jails in Colorado and substance abuse. The CDOC makes an assessment of every inmate. It then gives recommendations for treatment. In 2011, the most recent year figures are available, 20% of female substance abusers were recommended no treatment. That means 1 out of every 5 of women substance abusers in jail get no help at all. Only 7% were recommend for weekly outpatient treatment. Another 6% were assigned to enhanced outpatient treatment. Finally, the CDOC gave 0% of substance abusing inmates a medical or mental health referral.

That’s a lot of statistics. What they show is that jails and prisons don’t provide adequate care for women with substance abuse issues. That means that going to jail might not help you get clean. It certainly doesn’t help women stay sober.

That doesn’t mean that the people running the jails don’t care. In fact, there’s several programs for inmates with substance abuse issues. But the state budget is frequently cut. These programs are usually the first ones to go.

For example, the 2004 budget for substance abuse programs in jails was 40% smaller than the 2003 budget. The biggest target was outpatient treatment services. They were reduced at some facilities. They were totally eliminated at others.

Colorado’s Attitude on Drug Charges

Colorado has some of the most progressive views on drug charges. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t take them seriously. Lots of women are prosecuted for drug crimes in the state.

One thing that different about Colorado is the view of drug crimes. The state is moving more towards a public health model of drug use. This model sees drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue. As a result, there’s more focus on helping people. The 911 Good Samaritan Law is an example of this.

However, the state is less forgiving to drug traffickers. Drug trafficking crimes in Colorado are broken down into different levels. These crimes exclude marijuana. But trafficking marijuana across the state line is a federal offense.

The most severe charge is a Level 1 drug felony. The state can charge someone with this crime based on what kind of drugs they have and the quantity of the drugs. It’s important to note that this includes mixtures that contain drugs.

For example, someone might mix cocaine with another substance. This is called cutting the drug. People do this to stretch the drug farther. It lets them get more money because they can make more sales.

The weight of cocaine is different than the weight of cocaine mixed with a cutting agent. But the weight of both together is used to determine the penalty. If someone had an ounce of pure cocaine and cut it with 10 ounces of material, they will be charged as if they have 11 ounces of cocaine.

A level 1 drug felony is any mixture that contains and weighs:

  • 225 grams of a Schedule I or II drug
  • 112 grams of methamphetamine, heroin, ketamine, or cathinone
  • 50 mg and contains flunitrazepam
  • Transferring any amount to a minor

A level 2 drug felony is any mixture that contains and weighs:

  • 14-225 grams of a Schedule I or II drug
  • 7-112 grams of methamphetamine, heroin, ketamine, or cathinone
  • 10-50 grams of flunitrazepam
  • Transferring any amount to a minor

A Level 3 drug felony is any mixture that contains and weighs:

  • Up to 14 grams of a Schedule I or II drug
  • Up to 7 grams of methamphetamine, heroin, ketamine, or cathinone
  • Up to 10 grams of flunitrazepam
  • More than four grams of a Schedule III or IV drug

Programs for Inmates

There are some programs for inmates charged with drug crimes. These programs work to help inmates get clean. They try to help inmates develop skills so that they can get a job when they get out.

These programs are important. One estimate states that ~75% of Colorado inmates have a substance abuse problem. Preventing relapse and recidivism is an excellent way to improve public health and decrease the costs of drug abuse.

One program provides Vivitrol to inmates. This program is aimed at preventing opioid addiction and relapse. Vivitrol is a drug that helps people fight addiction. Denver Women’s Recovery also uses the drug for treatment.

The medication works by blocking opiate receptors in the brain. This helps significantly reduce the rate of relapse. Opiate receptors don’t release dopamine when they’re blocked. That means people can’t get high anymore. At the same time, it reduces drug cravings.

There’s another program for opiate addicts. It’s called the Medicated Assisted Therapy (MAT) Induction Pilot. This program works by getting inmates on a methadone treatment program. Methadone works in a similar way to Vivitrol.

The drug blocks opiate receptors. That prevents other opiates from working. It also reduces withdrawal symptoms. This allows people to work on getting clean. That’s important because, as one probation supervisor for the Denver Drug Court stated, there’s been a 47% increase in Drug Court participants that list opioids as their drug of choice.

Another program uses peer-to-peer aids to help people stay off of drugs. Denver County Jail started the program. It’s known as Recovery in a Safe Environment.  Inmates handle most of the programming. This gives them a chance to play an active role in their recovery.

The program is very intensive. This is by design. Other plans and programs use short classes or counseling sessions. People in Recovery in a Safe Environment (RISE) attend sessions from 7 AM to 4PM. They go to these sessions six days a week.

While they’re in the program, inmates talk about shared experiences. This makes it similar to programs outside jail. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous both use the idea of shared experience to help people get clean and stay clean. In 2014, the program helped 128 women.

What to Do if You’re Charged with a Drug-Related Crime or DUI

It’s scary to be charged with a crime. It’s even more scary to be charged with a drug crime or DUI in Colorado. These crimes have stiff penalties. Prosecutors often use drug crime trials to show that they’re tough on crime.

The most important thing to do if you’re charged with any crime is contact a lawyer. State and local governments provide legal aid if you can’t afford a lawyer. You should never try to handle your own legal defense. A lawyer has the training and knowledge needed to understand the situation.

Sometimes people are tempted to confess to crimes without speaking to a lawyer. They’re afraid. They don’t know what will happen to them. They think that if they confess it will be over faster. But confessing without a lawyer means you don’t know all the options open to you.

Lawyers can help you get into pre-trial diversion programs. Drug Court is one example of these programs. They’re designed to help you beat addiction. As a result, you can get the help and treatment you need. You can also avoid costly fines and long stays in prison.

Mental Health Services in Colorado Jails and Prisons

There’s another issue with going to jail for drug crimes. Many drug users have co-occurring disorders. This is also known as a dual-diagnosis. It means that someone has another mental health issue with substance abuse.

Prison is even worse when you have a mental health issue. A recent audit found that mental health programs in Colorado jails and prisons don’t have the right resources for behavioral health.

Sometimes prisoners are not diagnosed. They also aren’t appropriately tracked through the system. There are also staff shortages. 20% of mental health positions with the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) are unfilled.

That means the jail and prison system doesn’t have the right staff to provide the support inmates need. This shortage contributes to a poor quality of care. It also causes people to miss out on treatment entirely.

Many women with substance abuse issues have a co-occurring disorder. These disorders include depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and eating disorders. Sometimes a co-occurring disorder leads to addiction. Other times, it occurs when you’re trying to quit.

Women are hit particularly hard by co-occurring disorders in prison. A 2014 study found that 72% of female prisons have moderate to severe medical needs.

Also, things happen in prison that can make mental health issues worse. One example is solitary confinement.

A state law passed in 2014 that prevents people with mental illnesses being placed in solitary confinement. However, the audit found several examples of people being placed in solitary when they shouldn’t be.

Solitary confinement makes mental illness worse. Studies show that it can even cause mental illness. It can lead to delirium, obsessive thoughts, self-mutilation, suicidal thoughts, and more.

Understanding Female Incarceration in Colorado for Drugs & Alcohol

Modern women face lots of different pressures. There are social pressures, family pressures, professional pressures, and personal pressures. Some women resort to drugs and alcohol to deal with this pressure.

But drugs and alcohol don’t make problems go away. Instead, they make problems worse. Female incarceration in Colorado is fueled by an increase in drug and alcohol-related crimes.

Jails and prisons offer some treatment options. But these programs might not be as good as programs outside of jail. That means you want to get clean before you get arrested. After all, the best way to avoid going to jail for a drug crime is to not use drugs.

Don’t let yourself become a statistic. Get clean before you get a first-hand look at the inside of a jail cell. Denver Women’s Recovery can help you find and stay on the path to sobriety.

Denver Women’s Recovery Can Help

Denver Women’s Recovery can help you avoid legal issues from drugs or alcohol. We do this by helping you get clean and stay clean. Our program offers several advantages to women.

However, we realize that addiction treatment is a very personal decision. That’s why we encourage you to call or contact us. We can tell you more about our program and facilities. We can also answer any questions that you have.

Gender-specific addiction treatment is the best way to get sober and stay sober. There are important differences in how men and women experience addiction. For example, women are more likely to have other mental health disorders with their addiction. Also, women have a faster progression of alcoholism than men do.

Women are also more vulnerable to predation or abuse. This is true when they’re using and when they’re trying to get clean. A gender-specific recovery environment helps to reduce the chance of abuse. It also helps women deal with the extra stigma they face for having a substance abuse issue.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights more benefits. Women in gender-specific programs are more likely to be employed after treatment. They’re also more likely to complete treatment. That’s important. Completing treatment is a good indicator of treatment success. Women that complete their treatment are more likely to stay clean.

Denver Women’s Recovery is constantly working to improve our methods and treatment. That’s why we offer access to a wide range of treatment options. Our services include:

  • Drug and Alcohol Screening to help you stay accountable and drug-free
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment to help you stay clean once you leave our program
  • Group therapy to help you through ongoing treatment
  • Individual therapy to help you determine the best path forward
  • Trauma treatment to help women who have lived through traumatic experiences

Additionally, we offer several different types of therapy. These include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), structural family therapy, Trauma Resiliency Model, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

It is hard to be a woman. It’s even harder to be a woman with substance abuse issues. These issues frequently come with other mental health problems. Denver Women’s Recovery offers a way to get clean and stay clean. That’s the best way to avoid going to jail for drugs.

Call or contact us today to find out if we’re the right treatment program for you. Your health insurance may even cover the costs of treatment. Start living your life for you and stop living for your addiction today.