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, May 28, 2007

Paroling Homeless in Colorado

For the last two years we have been working on a study with the Piton Foundation about people who are paroling to Denver and the problems they face. We surveyed our members who were in prison on a revocation and we also surveyed people as they visited local parole offices. We met one man who was trying to get a check cashed for $5.61, he had just been released and dropped off out on Smith Road. With no I.D. and no home to go to. That is all he was released with.

Griffin has been in the Denver shelter since he was paroled about two weeks ago. The 44-year-old says he would probably be allowed to live on his own once he finds a job and can afford rent.But, in his view, it's nearly impossible to find work while living out of a homeless shelter.

"I'm grateful for a place to stay," Griffin says, sitting in a folding chair at the Crossroads Shelter on a recent evening. "But you shouldn't put people in a place like this."

The Department of Corrections says parolees must have a fixed address, and sometimes a shelter is the only option.

"This is keeping them from living on the streets, and this is our way to manage and supervise them," says DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti. "We know where they are every night. We can keep them safe and the public safe."

Parolees at Crossroads do not blame the Salvation Army but say the facility is not conducive to staying straight. They say drugs are readily available just outside. Hanging out with other parolees isn't exactly helpful either. Related article

We have a 65% recidivism rate in this state for people who are trying to serve a mandatory parole piece. A startling number of those nearly 85% are being returned to prison for a technical violation. This isn't new criminal activity. It's a violation of a condition of parole. Not having an address, missing a meeting, not having a job or drug or alcohol use. These violations cost the state $28,000 per person per year. Alternatives work and we aren't taking the initiative to use them.

We are missing the boat when it comes to recidivism. The governor recently unveiled his Recidivism Reduction Plan that adds more beds to community corrections but still doesn't help people who are running up against so many brick walls that they finally lose hope. We need real reform and real change if we are going to tackle the basic problems that are failing the people who are returning to community from prison. Our thanks to Burt Hubbard for taking on this story and illuminating the issue of homelessness.
More than one in three parolees in Denver and one in four in the metro area are living in homeless shelters or other temporary housing after getting out of prison, a new study has found.

A lack of affordable housing, combined with a rising number of parolees, has led prison officials to increasingly turn to shelters to house ex-inmates.

In one shelter, sophisticated electronic monitors have been installed to track as many as 75 parolees at the same time, and prison specialists routinely make the rounds of shelters, checking on parolees.

"They're in partnership with us," said Tim Hand, assistant director of adult parole for the Department of Corrections. "It's almost like they're part of our structure."

The study, by the Piton Foundation and Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, found that housing was just one of several challenges faced by parolees. Others included difficulty in finding jobs, overcoming substance abuse, supporting themselves and dealing with a patchwork parolee-support system.

"It's really a crisis," said Christie Donner, director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

The nonprofit Piton Foundation studied parolees as part of its ongoing research into social issues in Denver. It seeks alternatives to incarceration.

Rocky Mountain News

Hard to Be Homeless and On Parole - Rocky Mountain News

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