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, August 26, 2007

Boxing Great Ron Lyle To Speak At Conference

When a youth was killed in a Denver gang fight more than 45 years ago, Ron Lyle's world seemed over. The teenager was sent to prison for most of the decade in connection with the death.

But within six years of freedom, he was throwing punches at Muhammad Ali and going 11 rounds with the legendary boxer.

"Usually prison's the end of the line, they say," said Lyle, now 66. "But I'm a believer that prison's the starting point. That's how I looked at it and it turned out to be that way."

Lyle will be the keynote speaker next month at the 2nd annual Freedom Conference, which helps men reentering society transition from prison life.

Tonya Rozencwajg, coordinator of the conference, said she was inspired to hold such an event because of the high recidivism rate of prisoners.

Two out of three offenders released from prison in 1994 committed at least one serious crime within three years, according to a U.S. Department of Justice recidivism study on its website.

In Colorado, the recidivism rate of prisoners released in 2004 was 41 percent after just one year, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.

"Guys come out and don't have the tools they need to be successful," Rozencwajg said. "They re-offend because it's all they know. There's not much to help them along."

Recent prisoners will learn about reintegration into family and society, job opportunities and other helpful resources to get their lives in order, she added.

James Manuel, 41, served about 10 years in prison on robbery and drug-related charges. When he got out, he found it difficult to connect with his children again.

"Getting out was one of my biggest fears," he said. "My oldest held a grudge."

But he now speaks with his children a few times a month, has a management job at a Denver piping company, and has stayed out of trouble since he got out of prison in 2005, he said.

"Every day is a challenge," he said. "But if you put yourself around the right people, they will help."

The conference is scheduled for Sept. 14from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.at the Blair Caldwell Library at 2401 Welton Street. It's sponsored by It Takes a Village, a non-profit group whose aim is to reduce health disparities among minorities in the metro area.

Manuel had a message for those trying to make a living after a prison sentence: "Life is what you make it," he said. "A lot of people want to point fingers at society, but we still are the only ones who can make decisions for ourselves."

The Denver Post