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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Prison Mess and Politicians - CA

Our prison mess: Politicians just make them worse
By Catherine Campbell
Fresno Bee
For the past 30 years, the California Legislature has passed laws lengthening prison sentences, built prison gulags all over the state, emptied the taxpayers' treasury to the prison guards union and its candidates, used crime to frighten and manipulate the voting public and refused to acknowledge the catastrophic prison system they created -- all out of self-interest.

Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines' self-congratulatory, chest-thumping commentary in The Bee May 3, titled "California's Prison System in Crisis," would have us believe that he and the rest of the Legislature stood tall in the face of a possible "takeover" of California prisons by a federal judge.

Politicians love crime. Give a politician a good crime, preferably a sex crime against a child, and he will pop up on the front page with a new piece of sentencing legislation, named after the victim, of course, having consulted his advisers on the political up-tick such a photo op will give to his political fortunes.

Before 1977, politicians did not set prison sentences, the state's Adult Authority set sentences. Most convicted criminals went into prison not knowing how long they would spend there, and their release date was determined by a rather harsh board of former cops and parole agents who periodically reviewed their crimes, history and prison behavior in determining their sentence lengths.

The Adult Authority was arbitrary; it tended to be racist, and it punished prisoners who spoke out. But it was, in the end, more humane than what we've got now.

Prisoners had a motive to behave well in prison and to rehabilitate, because that was the key to freedom. True fiscal conservatives, Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown, were running our state then.

Prison sentences were relatively short, and our prisons were dungeons where corruption, brutality and neglect were rampant. Given what has happened since, perhaps this was a good thing. Perhaps we should have left well enough alone.

Instead, in 1977, with the passage of the Indeterminate Sentencing Law, we gave the issue over to politicians, who love defining whole new crimes and increasing sentences, and have gone at it with an enthusiasm that would make one think they actually believe in what they are doing.

But their enterprise is cynical. Every study done, whether by law enforcement or pin-headed intellectuals at the University of California at Berkeley, establishes that longer sentences do not make us safer in the long run; they just make more prisoners and more prisons.

Real Cost of Prisons

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