Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

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.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Randy Ankeney suit that could release thousands headed to Supreme Court

Westword
Randy Ankeney was once a rising star in the Colorado Republican party, only to become a pariah after being found guilty of numerous sex crimes. However, he now has the opportunity to impact the state in a completely different way. A complaint he brought about alleged prisoner-release violations by the Colorado Department of Corrections is headed to the state supreme court, and if it's successful, his attorney, David Lane, says it could result in potentially thousands of inmates who've been incarcerated too long being freed. Details, more photos and original documents below.
See also: Clayton Lockett Botched Execution: Denver's David Lane Files Suit Over "Disgrace to USA"
The case is exceedingly complex, but Lane, who just spoke to us about the lawsuit he filed on behalf of Clayton Lockett, the Oklahoma killer whose execution was horribly botched earlier this year, sees its possible impact as simple. In his words, "The State of Colorado will immediately have to parole thousands of inmates if we win."



Ankeney, who was trained as a lawyer, has already won related cases at lower court levels -- a contrast to the court appearances that led to his incarceration. A 2006 Colorado Independent piece details his fall. Described by the site as a "prominent onetime appointee in former Governor Bill Owens' administration who was being groomed as a future GOP leader in Colorado," Ankeney made the wrong kind of headlines in 2001, when he was arrested on suspicion of "picking up a thirteen-year old girl he had met on the Internet, taking her to his home, getting her drunk and stoned on marijuana, taking topless photos of her and trying to coerce her into having sex with him."
Five years later, Ankeney got into trouble again, this time in regard to a twenty-year-old woman. The Independent notes that he was " originally slapped with three felony sex offenses and two misdemeanor charges, ranging from sexual assault to false imprisonment." According to the opening brief to the Colorado Supreme Court (one of three documents shared here), the cumulative cases resulted in convictions for child abuse -- negligently cause serious bodily injury, plus third-degree sexual assault and stalking -- emotional distress.
For these crimes, Ankeney was sentenced to a total of eight years, with the possibility of parole after considerably less time -- and when that parole should have kicked in is the crux of the Supreme Court case.
"Envision a sentence as a timeline," Lane says, "with your first day of incarceration on the left and the inmate serving time from left to right. The first significant date is the parole eligibility date. That's determined by statute as 50 percent of the sentence" -- in Ankeney's case, four years -- "if you've been behaving yourself. And the other significant date is the mandatory release date, when they can't hold you any longer -- they have to parole you. And good behavior should make that timeline move back from right to left."

rick.raemisch.7news.jpg
Rick Raemish, executive director of Colorado's Department of Corrections, seen in a 7News interview, is among the plaintiffs named in the complaint.
Other credits can reduce sentences even further. If, for example, "someone's got a job in the prison," Lane says, "he can get another ten days a month off his parole eligibility date," and educational earned time can knock off an additional five days per month -- although the parole board has discretion about how it applies both of these credits. There are fewer choices in regard to so-called earned time for good behavior. Although Ankeney's accumulated credits meant he could have been released after just three years, Lane says, "once he hit that four-year mark, he had to be paroled, because he had all his credits. If you read the law, it says this is mandatory: If you're behaving yourself, you shall be given a good-time credit per month."
However, Lane argues that the DOC "is refusing to use good time to calculate your mandatory release date." As a result, "they said Ankeney's mandatory release date wouldn't hit until he'd served six years and change."
In response, Lane goes on, "Ankeney called bullshit and filed his own case in district court."
He lost his first attempt "because the parole statutes are massively complicated and confusing," Lane points out. "But then he took his own appeal to the Court of Appeals and won."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals | Democracy Now!

Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals | Democracy Now!





Please be disturbed by this. Today a special on "kids for cash," the shocking story of how thousands
of children in Pennsylvania were jailed by two corrupt judges who
received $2.6 million in kickbacks from the builders and owners of
private prison facilities. We hear from two of the youth: Charlie
Balasavage was sent to juvenile detention after his parents unknowingly
bought him a stolen scooter; Hillary Transue was detained for creating a
MySpace page mocking her assistant high school principal. They were
both 14 years old and were sentenced by the same judge, Judge Mark
Ciavarella, who is now in jail himself — serving a 28-year sentence.
Balasavage and Transue are featured in the new documentary, "Kids for
Cash," by filmmaker Robert May, who also joins us. In addition, we speak
to two mothers: Sandy Fonzo, whose son Ed Kenzakoski committed suicide
after being imprisoned for years by Judge Ciavarella, and Hillary’s
mother, Laurene Transue. Putting their stories into context of the
larger scandal is attorney Robert Schwartz, executive director of the
Juvenile Law Center. The story is still developing: In October, the
private juvenile-detention companies in the scandal settled a civil
lawsuit for $2.5 million.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

After the Murder of Tom Clements, Can Colorado's Prison System Rehabilitate Itself? by Alan Prendergast

Westword

When Tom Clements accepted the job of executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections three years ago, he knew he was taking on an enormous challenge. Two particularly alarming sets of figures, trends that he believed to be more than casually related, caught his eye immediately.
One had to do with the excessive use of solitary confinement in order to isolate and punish the state's most troublesome prisoners. The other was the staggeringly high failure rate of parole.
Clements was a numbers guy. A native of the Show Me State, he valued empirical data more than gut instincts or sacred cows. A former parole officer who'd worked his way up to the top ranks of the Missouri state prison system, he was part of a growing reform movement in corrections: the promulgation of "evidence-based practices" by administrators whose idea of managing offenders is turning them into productive citizens again rather than simply moving them around. What mattered were hard numbers and programs with a track record of successful outcomes, and the data on the Colorado DOC wasn't good.

Tom Clements.
Tom Clements.
New DOC head Rick Raemisch was told to honor the legacy of Tom Clements.
New DOC head Rick Raemisch was told to honor the legacy of Tom Clements.
 
At the time that Clements arrived, Colorado had close to 1,500 inmates in solitary, or administrative segregation — which worked out to be about seven times the national average. Only a quarter of those in lockdown were there because of assaults on staff or other inmates; ad-seg had become the one-size-fits-all method of dealing with the mentally ill, suspected gang members, chronic screwups, or anyone else who appeared to be at risk of harm or of harming others. The average stay in isolation was nearly two years. Worse, 47 percent of the ad-seg prisoners completed their sentences in lockdown and were paroled directly to the street, with little or no preparation for the move from an eight-by-ten-foot cell to city life.
Forty-seven percent. As Clements saw it, that figure had a lot to do with some other dismal figures: the state's stubbornly high recidivism rate, hovering around 50 percent, and the steady return of thousands of parole violators to prison within months of their release.
The subject of Colorado's ad-seg problem figured prominently in the discussions of the executive-director job that Clements had with Governor John Hickenlooper. Without mentioning any names, Hickenlooper made passing reference to one prisoner, the son of a friend, who'd spent the bulk of his sentence in lockdown because of disciplinary problems. Clements took the position that the routine release of damaged, violent felons directly from isolation wasn't simply a parole problem, but a threat to public safety.
Reducing the use of solitary confinement became one of the new chief's top priorities. He pushed for more frequent and thorough reviews of who was in ad-seg and why, as well as initiatives to get prisoners out of isolation and into classes, drug treatment and mental-health programs before release. During his first two years on the job, the state's ad-seg population dropped by nearly 50 percent. Clements was encouraged by the progress, but hardly satisfied.
"It's only a matter of time," he told one top deputy, "until something goes bad."
His prediction proved to be all too accurate. But not even the new chief expected it to go quite as bad as it did, literally on his own doorstep. On the evening of March 19, 2013, Clements answered the doorbell at his Monument home and was confronted by a parole absconder named Evan Ebel — the same "son of a friend" Hickenlooper had mentioned during Clements's 2011 job interview. Released from ad-seg just seven weeks earlier, Ebel had already killed Nathan Leon, a pizza delivery driver, just to get his uniform. Ebel fatally shot Clements with a nine-millimeter handgun and fled, only to be killed himself two days later in a shootout with Texas authorities.
Almost eighteen months later, many questions about the death of Tom Clements remain unanswered. Authorities have described it as a gang-ordered assassination. Citing unnamed sources, the Denver Post has even suggested that it was a murder for hire, commissioned by a Saudi national who'd been denied a transfer out of a Colorado prison just days earlier. But aside from Stevie Vigil, the young woman who supplied Ebel with his gun, no charges have been filed against anyone in the case — and longtime friends of Ebel, citing letters and a recorded message he left behind, have insisted that the murder was an act of personal vengeance against a system that he despised.
Trying to make sense of a senseless killing has put considerable strain not only on investigators, but on DOC officials, as well, who have struggled to define what sort of "lesson," if any, can be gleaned from the tragedy. On one hand, Rick Raemisch, the current director, has expressed his determination to honor Clements's legacy, leading to a dramatic reduction in the number of mentally ill prisoners in ad-seg. But the shock and outrage of the slaying has also led to a major shakeup in the department's leadership team and retrenchment in many critical areas, including parole. Clements had set out to change not only the direction of DOC policy, but also the agency's internal culture, and many of his initiatives are now on hold or have been quietly scrapped. While the system failures exposed by Ebel's rampage have generated a flurry of new legislation and heightened security measures, some observers wonder if Clements's death has also jeopardized reforms that he regarded as long overdue.
 continue reading Westword article

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sentencing, by the Numbers

New York Times

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — IN a recent letter to the United States Sentencing Commission, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sharply criticized the growing trend of evidence-based sentencing, in which courts use data-driven predictions of defendants’ future crime risk to shape sentences. Mr. Holder is swimming against a powerful current. At least 20 states have implemented this practice, including some that require risk scores to be considered in every sentencing decision. Many more are considering it, as is Congress, in pending sentencing-reform bills.

Risk-assessment advocates say it’s a no-brainer: Who could oppose “smarter” sentencing? But Mr. Holder is right to pick this fight. As currently used, the practice is deeply unfair, and almost certainly unconstitutional. It contravenes the principle that punishment should depend on what a defendant did, not on who he is or how much money he has.

The basic problem is that the risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.
Such factors are usually considered inappropriate for sentencing; if anything, some might be mitigating circumstances. But in the new, profiling-based sentencing regimen, markers of socioeconomic disadvantage increase a defendant’s risk score, and most likely his sentence.

Advocates of punishment profiling argue that it gives sentencing a scientific foundation, allowing better tailoring to crime-prevention goals. Many hope it can reduce incarceration by helping judges identify offenders who can safely be diverted from prison. 

While well intentioned, this approach is misguided. The United States inarguably has a mass-incarceration crisis, but it is poor people and minorities who bear its brunt. Punishment profiling will exacerbate these disparities — including racial disparities — because the risk assessments include many race-correlated variables. Profiling sends the toxic message that the state considers certain groups of people dangerous based on their identity. It also confirms the widespread impression that the criminal justice system is rigged against the poor. 

It is na├»ve to assume judges will use the scores only to reduce sentences. Judges, especially elected ones, will face pressure to harshly sentence those labeled “high risk.” And even if risk scores were used only for diversion from prison, it would still be wrong to base them on wealth and demographics, reserving diversion for the relatively privileged.

Evidence-based sentencing also raises serious constitutional concerns. The Supreme Court has consistently held that otherwise-impermissible discrimination cannot be justified by statistical generalizations about groups, even if those generalizations are on average accurate. People have a right to be treated as individuals, and individuals often do not conform to group averages.
For example, in its 1983 decision in Bearden v. Georgia, the court unanimously rejected the state’s contention that a defendant could have his probation revoked because his recent job loss increased his crime risk. The court held that “lumping him together with other poor persons and thereby classifying him as dangerous ... would be little more than punishing a person for his poverty.”

Litigation has been slow in coming, however. The risk-prediction instruments are not very transparent (some are proprietary corporate products), and defendants may not understand the role of poverty and personal characteristics. But challenges could be on the horizon. For example, I recently participated in training the Michigan defense counsel on constitutional objections to evidence-based sentencing, in preparation for the state’s impending implementation. 

Of course, judges have always considered future crime risk informally, and it’s worth considering whether actuarial methods can help make those predictions more accurate. The problem isn’t risk assessment per se; it’s basing scores on demographics and socioeconomics. Instead, scores could be based on past and present conduct, and perhaps other factors within the defendant’s control. 

Data-driven predictions grounded in legitimate factors might be about as accurate as current profiling schemes. There is no persuasive evidence that the current troubling variables add much predictive value, once criminal conduct is already taken into account. But even if they do improve accuracy, this gain doesn’t justify sacrificing fairness. 

Criminal justice policy should be informed by data, but we should never allow the sterile language of science to obscure questions of justice. I doubt many policy makers would publicly defend the claim that people should be imprisoned longer because they are poor, for instance. Such judgments are less transparent when they are embedded in a risk score. But they are no more defensible.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Floorboards

Dear [fname]
Hi there!!! CCJRC was awarded a grant to attend and participate in a class for Digital Storytelling for Nonprofits.  We created a movie and now we are in the running for a fabulous prize…
These are digital stories that nonprofit organizations created as part of their participation in Open Media Foundation's Digital Storytelling for Nonprofits class.
Winning videos will be announced on Friday August 8th at 7pm, during the live show 'SparqU Presents: The Perfect Pitch for Nonprofits'".  If you have already voted for this, thank you!!
Can you go to the link below and vote for “Floorboards” ?  Floorboards was written about the story of a son’s experience of his mother’s incarceration and their eventual reunion.  This is a preview of the live performance that you will be able to see at the CCJRC "Voices for Justice" 6th Annual Fundraiser
Thank you so much!!!  (After you get to the Open Media website you have to click on the red stars under the title until they turn yellow and the vote count actually changes). 
https://www.denveropenmedia.org/projects/digital-storytelling-nonprofits
Don't forget to get your tickets to the
     CCJRC’s 2014 6th Annual Fundraiser
  
   VOICES FOR JUSTICE
Thursday, September 18, 2014
5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m
COCKTAILS AND CUISINE
BOXES AND BASKETS SILENT AUCTION
MILE HIGH STATION
2027 West Lower Colfax
Denver, CO.
CATERED BY FOOTERS

Early bird tickets: $85

PLEASE JOIN US FOR ANOTHER WONDERFUL EVENING!
This year, we are honoring Claire Levy for her invaluable contribution to criminal justice reform. As House Representative, she carried a significant number of bills vital to reducing recidivism, implementing smarter sentencing and drug policy, expanding funding for treatment, increasing alternatives to incarceration, and providing resources to people with criminal convictions. Her work on the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) was exemplary as is her current work as Executive Director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

CCJRC has been successfully advocating for sensible criminal justice reform in Colorado for more than a decade. We were founded in 1999 when Senator Dorothy Rupert, in alliance with Representative Penfield Tate, introduced legislation calling for a three-year halt on prison expansion and the creation of a task force on sentencing reform. Today, CCJRC includes more than 100 community organizations and faith communities and nearly 6,500 individual members statewide. We have worked diligently over the years to develop criminal justice policies and grassroots campaigns that effectively promote public safety and rehabilitation while reducing the prison population.

The Rupert Tate Game Changer Award honors its two co-founders and their prescience in challenging the criminal justice status quo in Colorado. It is a great honor to extend this award to
Claire Levy

$1000--Contributing Sponsors
                              
Prax (us)                   Jan and Dave Mackenzie
Second Chance Center
       Bill Vandenberg                  

$750 - Advocate Sponsors

$500 – Freedom Fighter Sponsors
    Tiftickjian Law Firm, PC              

$250 – Justice Sponsors
                                                Elizabeth Anderman        Tony and Leigh Bubb
           T. Marshal Seufert       Brian Connors       Councilman Albus Brooks     Endpoint Direct
                 Advocates for Change    St. Francis Center    Longmont Community Justice Partnership
                    Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition       Colorado Behavioral Health Council

Event Audience
  • Colorado community members supporting criminal justice reform, mental health/substance abuse treatment services and law enforcement
  • Prospective CCJRC major donors who have an interest in our event and/or organization
  • Current CCJRC donors at all levels
  • Law firms and related legal businesses
  • Current CCJRC coalition partners and faith communities
  • Civic leaders and legislators engaged in criminal justice reform, health care, public policy, and treatment


Sponsorship Opportunities

Voices for Justice Sponsor - $10,000
  • Four seats at dinner
  • Your Company name used in title of event ~ “Voices for Justice” presented by Your Company
  • Opportunity for sponsor representative to speak
  • Your Company name used in all media promotion
  • Your Company name and logo on all marketing and materials
  • Sponsor banner at event
  • Recognition in Colorado Justice Report, our tri-annual newsletter to over 6,000 members
  • Full page ad/logo in Event Program
  • CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage

Game Changer Sponsor - $5,000
  • Four seats at dinner
  • Your Company name used in title of event ~ “Game Changer” presented by Your Company
  • Opportunity for sponsor representative to speak
  • Your Company name used in all media promotion
  • Your Company name and logo on all marketing and materials
  • Sponsor banner at event
  • Recognition in Colorado Justice Report, our tri-annual newsletter to over 6,000 members
  • Full page ad/logo in Event Program
  • CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage


Supporting Sponsor - $2,500
  • Four seats at dinner
  • Your Company name used in all media promotion
  • Your Company name and logo on all marketing and materials
  • Sponsor banner at event
  • Recognition in Colorado Justice Report, our tri-annual newsletter to over 6,000 members
  • ½ page ad/logo in Event Program
  • CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage

Contributing Sponsor $1,000
  • Four seats at dinner
  • Your Company name on all marketing and materials
  • Sponsor banner at event
  • Recognition in Colorado Justice Report, our tri-annual newsletter to over 6,000 members
  • ¼ page ad/logo in Event Program
  • CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage

Advocate Sponsor - $750
  • Two seats at dinner
  • Your Company name on all marketing and materials
  • Sponsor banner at event
  • Recognition in Colorado Justice Report, our tri-annual newsletter to over 6,000 members
  • Listing in Event Program
  •  CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage

Freedom Fighter Sponsor - $500
  • Two seats at dinner
  • Sponsor banner at event
  • Recognition in Colorado Justice Report, our tri-annual newsletter to over 6,000 members
  • Listing in Event Program
  • CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage

Rupert-Tate Sponsor - $375
  • Two seats at dinner
  • Recognition in Colorado Justice Report, our tri-annual newsletter to over 6,000 members
  • Listing in Event Program
  • CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage

Justice Sponsor - $250
  • Two seats at dinner
  • Listing in Event Program
  • CCJRC website and social media recognition with link to your website
  • Table signage
 I'd like to Sponsor this event!!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

U.S. Sentencing Commission cuts prison terms for 46,000 inmates

LA TIMES

he U.S. Sentencing Commission voted Friday to slash sentences for 46,000 inmates serving time for drug offenses, the latest move in a concerted effort by state and federal officials to ease decades-old policies that have clogged jails and prisons.
If the move is not blocked by Congress, more than two-thirds of federal prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes will be eligible for sentence reductions averaging more than two years.

Atty. Gen Eric H. Holder Jr. originally asked the commission, a group of judges and other lawyers who establish sentencing policies, to take a much narrower approach that would affect just 20,000 inmates.
But Holder said Friday he supports the new policy. “This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system, ” he said in a statement.

Judge Patti B. Saris, chair of the commission, said, “This amendment received unanimous support from commissioners because it is a measured approach. It reduces prison costs and populations, and responds to statutory and guidelines changes since the drug guidelines were initially developed, while safeguarding public safety.”
No prisoner would be released until a judge reviews their case to determine whether a reduced sentence poses a risk to public safety.
The House and Senate would have to vote by Nov. 1 to block the plan. But there has been bipartisan support in both houses for a broad change in prison policies.