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, July 15, 2007

Community Re- Entry Project

The Community Re-Entry Project kicked it's doors open yesterday as Mayor Hickenlooper came down for the ribbon cutting ceremony. He was joined by Chief Foos from the Sheriffs Department, Councilman Doug Linkhart, incoming Councilwoman Carla Madison, the Manager of Public Safety Al LaCabe, Reprensentative Mike Cerbo, and a host of people who have had their hands in this project up to their elbows.

The history of this project goes back to the decision that Denver needed a new Justice Center. CCJRC fought vehemently against that proposal. Our position being that we don't need new cages, we need alternatives for people and support for them once they are returned to community. Cutting the recidivism rate in Denver would negate the necessity for a new jail. The mayor won the first round. Voters approved the new jail, but out of the dust rose the promise of something different. The Crime Prevention and Control Commission was born and they were given a million dollars to spend on alternatives. Hundreds of meetings and many subcommittees later the money was allocated. Most of it went to Drug Court, of course, but a portion went into a concept.

The Community Re-entry Center is a place where folks can go once they are released from county jail. They can go there for a variety of services that include counseling, rent assistance, clothing, food, GED classes, drug and alcohol treatment, bus tokens, job search assistance, resume writing, and computer use. The concept is an in/out program. People are identified while they are still in county as needing services, case managers meet with them there initially and do the first assessments. There are also mental health counselors to siphon off those who are in need of mental health services first and foremost. That allows those needs to be addressed first.

CCJRC sits on the Re-entry sub-committee still and we are very excited about this center and the promise it holds. In a perfect world we will have centers situated around the city, in the neighborhoods where people live and return to.

DENVER _ Amid the political speeches and blues music, April Corral sat at a folding table under the sun on Saturday and carefully crafted stationery.

Just a couple months out of jail, Corral, who "wore up" 27 of her 48 years drunk or high, knows the meaning of "re-entry" and "transition."

At a ceremony unveiling a nonprofit community center tailored for people like her, she talked about living her dream as she peddled her hand-created wares, which resemble a watercolor but are created from mixing deodorant and the dye from pages of magazines.

"I've pictured myself in my mountain home or my Palm Springs home and I have a design studio and I make money, and then I give back to people who have helped me," she said.

The new Community Reentry Project, at East 30th Avenue and Downing Street, will help people jailed for misdemeanors make the transition into regular life. The program will offer GED, computer and literacy classes. Director Jenifer Reynolds, jailed herself once for car theft, hopes to offer relationship classes too.

The project will contract with the city and county of Denver, and leaders hope to find people eligible for the program when they are still incarcerated. In 2006, about 50,000 people were released from the city jail. Reynolds hopes the project will serve up to 800 people a year - but she'd love to help more.

"I'm someone who had mentors in my life, those who believed in me when I didn't," said Reynolds, 38.

Corral served three months for violating probation on a drug charge. Those months were "the biggest blessing in my life," she said, because it made her stop and look in the mirror.

The Denver Post