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.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thousands of Teens May Be Released in Texas

March 24, 2007
Texas, Addressing Sexual Abuse Scandal, May Free Thousands of Its Jailed Youths By RALPH BLUMENTHAL, NY Times

HOUSTON, March 23 — Battered by a sexual abuse scandal in its juvenile justice system, Texas may soon free most of the 4,000 jailed youths who have served their minimum sentences but who are still being held, in many cases for reasons that are undetermined.

Under plans announced Friday by the special master whom Gov. Rick Perry appointed to supervise the tarnished Texas Youth Commission, the cases of all juveniles who have served more than the nine-month minimum — 93 percent, by some accounts — will be reviewed by a panel of civil rights advocates, prosecutors and a youth official, reporting to a state judge. Unless the Youth Commission, which runs the state’s youth detention centers, can demonstrate that such juveniles pose a danger to the community, they will be released.

“The burden is on the state,” Jay Kimbrough, the special master, said in Austin at a briefing for reporters. “I have seen enough and heard enough.”

Mr. Kimbrough’s move is the latest turn in a case that broke last month with news that a Texas Ranger investigation in 2005 had corroborated sexual contacts between boys at the West Texas State School, in Pyote, and two top supervisors, who then resigned without charges filed.

Youth Commission facilities are permitted on their own to extend sentences for misconduct, but parents of some young inmates say those decisions are often made capriciously, sometimes in retribution for the filing of grievances. And lawmakers suggested at a hearing last month that some youths had received lengthened sentences for refusing to have sex with corrections officers.

The approach announced Friday was described by Will Harrell, executive director of the Texas office of the American Civil Liberties Union, as groundbreaking and “huge.”

Mr. Harrell, who will serve on the review panel along with representatives of the N.A.A.C.P. and the Hispanic rights group Lulac, said that “this is all going to happen fast.” He and Mr. Kimbrough said the panel could be in place within weeks.

The announcement came as federal officials confirmed an unrelated inquiry into accusations of sexual abuse at a federal center for detained illegal-immigrant children in South Texas. The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that a staff member suspected of molesting children at that center, the Texas Sheltered Care facility in Nixon, east of San Antonio, had been fired and that the F.B.I. had turned the case over to Texas prosecutors.

Real Cost of Prisons

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