Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
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Saturday, December 13, 2014
The Denver Post
PRESCRIPTION KIDS: Read the Denver Post special report on use of psychotropic drugs in the Colorado foster care system.
A medical director would oversee the levels of mind-altering psychotropic drugs prescribed to children and teenagers in Colorado's foster care system and at the Division of Youth Corrections under a budget request submitted this week.
For the first time, the state child welfare department wants to hire a staff of medical professionals — headed by a physician — to monitor prescription medication use in youth corrections and the child welfare system, as well as other health issues. Officials have asked the legislature's Joint Budget Committee for $700,000 to hire a contracted doctor and four staff members, including two nurses.
Colorado is one of only 10 states without a medical director overseeing the foster care system.
Rising numbers of foster children nationwide are prescribed potent psychotropic medications because of behavioral problems, anxiety and depression, often brought on by trauma in their lives. Child advocates have called for fewer drugs and more therapy to treat the root cause of the children's behavioral problems.
Critics say that few studies have examined side effects on children and that heavy doses make kids seem detached and sedated.
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Thursday, December 04, 2014
From Ferguson to Staten Island, Justice and Accountability Are Nowhere in Sight
December 4, 2014
- By gabriel sayegh
In New York City yesterday, a grand jury failed to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner in Staten Island.
The grand jury decision isn’t just disappointing, it’s downright alarming.
Grand juries aren't supposed to find innocence or guilt - they're
supposed to decide whether there is enough evidence to accuse someone
and bring them to trial.
The killing of Eric Garner was caught on camera and the video went
viral. The coroner ruled the death a homicide. In the face of such
compelling, awful evidence, the Garner family and communities across the
country reasonably expected some accountability.
In refusing to indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death,
the grand jury is saying the loss of Garner’s life doesn’t require even
the most basic inquiry and process of a trial. Once again, the deep
flaws with our broken criminal justice system are exposed.
Unfortunately, these flaws are found not only in New York City, but
across the country. Last week in Ferguson, MO, a different grand jury
refused to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.
From discredited stop-and-frisk practices, to the controversial “broken
windows” policing, to the indefensible racial disparities in drug law
enforcement, systemic racism – long a part of the failed war on drugs –
is clearly a standard feature in our criminal justice system.
Yet because this racism is about systems and not individuals, it
makes it harder for some people to see and understand. In her
bestselling book The New Jim Crow,
law professor, Michelle Alexander, popularized the concept of systemic
racism by outlining the long history of racial subjugation in the U.S.
and its modern manifestations, wherein policies, institutional practices
and politics combine to criminalize, stigmatize and devalue people of
Yesterday, my colleague Yolande Cadore wrote
about these connections from Ferguson, where she’s marching for justice
along with faith leaders from around the country. She wrote:
“Many may ask – what does the death of Michael
Black lives matter. And other than slavery and Jim Crow laws, no other
social policy has served to devalue Black lives more than America’s drug
In August, when nationwide protests erupted after the killing of Michael Brown, another DPA colleague, Sharda Sekaran, wrote about
how the war on drugs “fuels the underlying thread of judgment, stigma
and marginalization that permeates how we value human life and it
enables acts of violence.”
These connections are becoming ever-more apparent in the light of
these tragedies and the subsequent absence of accountability or justice
for those who have lost their lives. A recent report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement found that every 28 hours, a Black man is killed by police in the U.S.
Too often, those in power attempt to justify these killings by
engaging in character assassination of those who lost their lives.
Authorities will claim, for instance, that the person who was killed was
using drugs – both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were accused of
marijuana use, as if this somehow justifies a death sentence.
Eric Garner was accused of selling cigarettes, as if this somehow
justifies a death sentence. These vulgar efforts at character
assassination, coupled with the tired calls to "respect the process" in a
broken criminal justice system, represent petty attempts to obscure the
brutal, ugly reality of systemic racism. In the wake of this latest miscarriage of justice, there are again
calls for reform. The president has promised change, the Department of
Justice has launched an investigation into the Garner case, and elected
officials in New York have promised action.
What will make these promises and investigations lead to justice and
accountability? The pressure brought by peoples movements – like those
that are growing now across the country.
We know that Black lives matter, regardless of what a grand jury
concludes. We know that our country can do better – and we must.
In the midst of our frustration, despair, and anger, let’s redouble
our effort to build vibrant movements for real change, dismantle the New
Jim Crow, and advance justice, equity and human rights for all.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2014
We are very excited to share with you the launch of the Take Care Health Matters website. The website serves as a tool and resource to assist justice involved individuals access health care due to the new opportunities under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This website is part of CCJRC’s larger health care access campaign, which we have been engaged in over the past year with our partners the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP).
An estimated 70% - 90% of justice involved individuals in Colorado are currently uninsured. The ACA offers unprecedented opportunities to help connect these justice involved individuals with health care. Not only do we believe the ACA promotes alternatives to the overuse of the criminal justice system, but connecting justice involved individuals with health care has been shown to reduce recidivism and improve the health and lives of individuals. The ACA also provides an opportunity to treat mental health and addiction disorders as a public health issue, not a criminal issue.
We are hopeful this website serves as a resource to increase the number of justice involved individuals who are able to utilize and access health care services in Colorado.
Specific on the website you'll find:
- Video stories from both justice involved individuals and criminal justice staff sharing the importance of health care
- A research library highlighting the significance and impact the ACA can have on justice involved individuals
- Resources for justice involved individuals on who to contact to enroll in and access health care services, including behavioral health
- Recorded webinars for health care, criminal justice, and community members
- A professional guide geared towards health care, criminal justice, and community members to establish relationships and connect with one another
- How to find a health care provider
- And much, much more………
We are extremely grateful for our partnership with CCLP and all of you who have helped contribute to this project. While the ACA offers new strategies to reform the criminal justice system, we know there are challenges and gaps in health care services, particularly for mental health and substance abuse treatment. CCJRC will continue to engage in, monitor, and work to improve the ability for justice involved individuals to enroll in and access health care. As always, we appreciate your continued support as we work to end mass incarceration and promote healthcare as a human right.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2014
The Marshall Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization founded on two simple ideas:
1) There is a pressing national need for high-quality journalism about the American criminal justice system. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Spiraling costs, inhumane prison conditions, controversial drug laws, and concerns about systemic racial bias have contributed to a growing bipartisan consensus that our criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform.
The recent disruption in traditional media means that fewer institutions have the resources to take on complex issues such as criminal justice. The Marshall Project stands out against this landscape by investing in journalism on all aspects of our justice system. Our work will be shaped by accuracy, fairness, independence, and impartiality, with an emphasis on stories that have been underreported or misunderstood. We will partner with a broad array of media organizations to magnify our message, and our innovative website will serve as a dynamic hub for the most significant news and comment from the world of criminal justice.
2) With the growing awareness of the system’s failings, now is an opportune moment to amplify the national conversation about criminal justice.
We believe that storytelling can be a powerful agent of social change. Our mission is to raise public awareness around issues of criminal justice and the possibility for reform. But while we are nonpartisan, we are not neutral. Our hope is that by bringing transparency to the systemic problems that plague our courts and prisons, we can help stimulate a national conversation about how best to reform our system of crime and punishment.
A Letter from Our Founder
By Neil Barsky, 11.15.2014The seeds of The Marshall Project were planted a few years ago after I read two books. The first, Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” argues that mass incarceration — which dates roughly from President Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs in the 1980s to the present—represents the third phase of African-American oppression in the United States, after slavery and Jim Crow. Alexander documents how the United States came to be the world’s biggest jailer by enacting policies that represented a bipartisan shift in how we address addiction, mental illness, and other non-violent forms of misconduct. Fueled in part by a reaction to civil rights gains and in part by fear of escalating crime, Alexander claims, we enacted tough drug laws, imposed greater mandatory minimum sentences, and ignited a prison boom. Intent can be difficult to prove; impact is irrefutable.
The second, Gilbert King’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Devil in the Grove,” explores the case of four African-American males falsely accused of rape in Lake County, Fla., and the vigilante violence that ensued. At the center of the drama was NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Thurgood Marshall, the future Supreme Court justice, who bravely but largely futilely fought in Florida's courts to spare these young men's lives. This took place in 1949, before Brown v. Board of Education (a Marshall legal triumph) and before an organized national movement to combat the Jim Crow segregation laws. The national press did not cover the proceedings.
Spurred on by these chapters in American history, I continued to explore our country's system of crime and punishment. What struck me was not only how expensive, ineffective, and racially biased it is, and how difficult it is to find anyone, liberal or conservative, who defends the status quo. But also how our condition has become taken for granted. Other American crises — soaring health-care costs, the failure of public education — typically lead to public debate and legislative action. But the spike in mass incarceration appears to have had the opposite effect: The general public has become inured to the overuse of solitary confinement, the widespread incidence of prison rape and the mixing of teens and adults in hardcore prisons. The more people we put behind bars, it seemed, the more the issue receded from the public consciousness.
The Marshall Project represents our attempt to elevate the criminal justice issue to one of national urgency, and to help spark a national conversation about reform. I named our organization after Justice Marshall simply because he embodies the principles we hold dear. He was scholarly, he was courageous, and he fiercely believed that the U.S. Constitution was the template to secure civil rights for all.
The Marshall Project will practice open-minded, fact-based journalism without fear or favor. Our editor, Bill Keller, has assembled a first-class team of reporters and editors dedicated to excellence, nonpartisan reporting, and innovation. We are a journalism organization because we think that journalism, done honestly and well, has infinite power to drive change. One need only look to the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements to appreciate how important journalists were in shaping public opinion. We do not need to be strident or ideological or selective in our use of facts . When the truth is as disturbing as it was in the segregated South, or in Vietnam, or today's prisons and courts, truthful reporting can have a powerful impact. We will explore what is working as well as what is broken, and where the potential exists for meaningful reform. Our commentary section will be written by individuals whose views encompass a broad range of perspectives. Our board of advisers, for example, includes both the inspirational civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson from the Equal Justice Initiative, and the conservative thinker Marc Levin from Right on Crime, both of whom have devoted their careers to making our system more humane and effective.
Being nonpartisan is not the same as being neutral. We approach the issue with the view — shared by a growing number of conservatives and liberals — that our system needs serious rethinking. Thank you for your interest in The Marshall Project, and please do not hesitate to tell us what you think.
A Letter from Our Editor
By Bill Keller, 11.15.2014In March I left The New York Times after 30 years there as a reporter, editor and columnist to help launch something new: a non-profit newsroom devoted to coverage of the American criminal justice system.
In the ensuing months we have assembled a diverse team of journalists, set in motion a wide range of reporting projects, built a website to serve as a worthy stage for our journalism, and begun to forge partnerships with a range of established media organizations that will amplify our voice.
We are not here to promote any particular agenda or ideology. But we have a sense of mission. We want to move the discussion of our institutions of justice — law enforcement, courts, prisons, probation — to a more central place in our national dialogue. We believe, as the great jurist Thurgood Marshall did, that protection under the law is the most fundamental civil right in a free society. Yet, by the numbers, the United States is a global outlier, with a prison population matched by no nation except, possibly, North Korea, with a justice system that disproportionately afflicts communities of need and of color, with a corrections regime that rarely corrects.
We aim to accomplish our mission through probing, fair-minded journalism, combining investigative rigor, careful analysis, and lively storytelling. We will examine the failings of our criminal justice system — but also test promising reforms. While a number of news organizations are doing distinguished reporting on crime and punishment, the journalistic energy devoted to this kind of reporting, time consuming and expensive as it is, has been sapped by the financial traumas of the news industry. Our aim is both to restore some of that lost energy and to be a catalyst for coverage elsewhere. We will publish the fruits of our reporting here and expand our audience by collaborating with first-rate newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and other online news sites.
In addition to our original reporting, we will compile the most interesting news and commentary from around the world of criminal justice, distributing our findings in our daily email, and offer this site as a hub for debate and accord. We are nonpartisan and nonideological, which means you will find here the voices of progressives and conservatives, centrists and provocateurs. As it happens, criminal justice is one of the few areas of public policy where there is a significant patch of common ground between right and left.
We are also nonprofit, dependent on the generosity of foundations and individuals. Our website and email are free of charge, but we invite you to click the “donate” button if you find The Marshall Project to be of interest and value. And join the conversation on social media or through our Letters to the Editor feature.
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