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.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Smart On Crime

•Join us On Friday: Lawyers, lawmakers and others will meet to discuss the work of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. The session will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, 2255 E. Evans Ave., Room 190.

Panel to take closer look

The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice plans to examine sentencing, recidivism and other factors.

Similar commissions in other states have made recommendations to adopt sentencing guidelines, modify parole policies and impose punishment, other than prison, for some drug crimes.

In 1980, 300 people were incarcerated in Colorado on drug offenses. Now 3,000 are serving time for drug offenses, Scarboro said.

Denver, in early 2007, reinstated its drug court in hopes of getting addicts the help they need to kick their habits, change their criminal ways and stay out of the state's prison system.

"It's one effort to keep drug abusers in treatment rather than prison," said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office.

The 26 members of the commission should be selected by the end of the month, said Peter Weir, executive director of the Department of Public Safety and a commission member.

"Instead of simply building prison cells, we will try to divert those dollars to fund other programs," Weir said.

But the commission is unlikely to abandon Colorado's track record completely.

"Incarceration works," Weir said. "There is a correlation between incarceration and crime rates."

Weir, a former prosecutor and judge, said it doesn't have to be an either-or scenario.

"We will do nothing to jeopardize public safety. We can be tough on crime, and we also can be smart on crime."

Key findings of 2006 Division of Criminal Justice report

400 percent increase in the state's prison population was seen - from 4,000 in 1985 to 20,000 in 2005.

$702 million is the current state Department of Corrections budget. It climbed from $57 million in 1985 to $533.1 million in 2005.

If the state stays on its current course, the prison population will increase by nearly 25 percent between now and 2013.

The number of men in prison is expected to increase to 23,892 from 20,178.

The number of female inmates will soar to 4,072 from 2,341.

Colorado's inmate population grew by 6.8 percent between 1995 and 2005. The national increase was 2.6 percent during the same period.Sources: Division Of Criminal Justice And Colorado Lawyers Committee Task Force On Sentencing

Rocky Mountain News

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