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.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ritter Brought Out the 800 Pound Gorilla

Bill Ritter gave his State of the State speech today and for the first time since the inauguration he brought prisons, prison spending and the problems we face.

Here's an excerpt

Public safety. Let's talk for a minute about public safety. I spent a career
being tough on crime, trying to be smart on crime. Now we have to be smarter
than ever. Our social compact and our responsibility as government leaders
to keep people safe demands it. And so does our budget.

Judge Weir and Ari Zavaras, my nominees for the Public Safety and
Corrections departments, understand this. They share my vision, and I have
directed them to examine how we can control prison costs by:

a.. Preventing crimes before they occur. Looking at drug courts and other
intervention programs, because a significant majority of prison inmates are
substance abusers.

b.. Developing programs that allow inmates to successfully re-enter society.

c.. Making recidivism-reduction a top priority of these two departments. If
we can prevent someone from re-offending, that's one less victim.
More than half of DOC inmates wind up back in prison within three years.
That's simply an unacceptable number. The costs are spiraling out of control
and eating into our ability to fund education and health care. We can do
better here in Colorado, and we're going to.

It's seems that he does know what has been going on. Now, we have to see if
he's going to help to enact real legislation, help fund real alternatives and stop the
perpetual prison expansion in Colorado, and do the work that is necessary to help
save lives. A significant number are drug abusers. That translates into 80% of the prison population.

If we are going to have a drug court, it has to be a model that works. Funding streams have
to be made available so that we can make alternatives available to everyone, not just the people who can afford it. We need real life case management that doesn't assume what people need, but asks them and finds a way for them to get those needs met, in such a way that they can become self-sustaining.

The Department of Corrections released 9,000 people last year. Statistics hold true that 65% of them will go back to prison. 84% of those people are going back for technical violations of parole. Our prison population is growing by 1000 people a year. All we have to do is figure out how to improve the success rate by 100 people a month and we attain negative growth. That's five people a day statewide, not just in Denver. It's not impossible, and it needs to be looked at soon.


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