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.

Monday, April 09, 2007

No More Prisons - Texas Ex Warden

The Real Cost of Prisons leads us to this piece written by an ex-warden. His point is well taken and is as applicable here as it is in Texas.

AFTER decades of hard experience, experts have finally figured out that simply putting lots of petty criminals in prison for long terms is exorbitantly costly and mostly ineffective in reducing crime. Alternatives such as progressive sanctions, treatment for addiction, and careful supervision cost less and reduce crime more. Yet now that Texas prisons are filled to capacity, a few powerful state policy-makers still want to add to the state's bloated 106-prison system. Texas is at a crossroads. The wrong decision could have tremendous ripple effects on our economy, public safety and overall welfare. The state must not elect to construct new prisons.

Evidence shows that many prisoners can be safely released, easing our self-made "crisis." "Trustees" are a case in point. Without adequate staff for our existing prison facilities (we need about 2,700 additional corrections officers) TDCJ uses inmates instead. TDCJ allows 6,200 prisoner "trustees" off prison grounds without any identification to carry out duties for guards and other staff. The vast majority of trustees, about 5,700, are eligible for parole.

The three proposed new prisons will house about 4,000 total inmates. If we simply were to spend our money to properly staff existing facilities and release parole-eligible trustees, Texas would completely eliminate the immediate need for new facilities without further policy changes. With the addition of appropriate treatment for addiction and a stronger system of probation, we could start thinking about closing older, expensive and less safe prisons.


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