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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bear Valley Community Church Honors Prison Ministry

Last night I had the pleasure of being invited to the Bear Valley Community Church for a banquet that honored prison ministries and volunteers around the state. I had dinner with a wonderful couple who has a son is currently one of the 480 who is being held in Sayre, Oklahoma. I was also lucky enough to be seated with two wonderful men who run a law firm and dedicate both time and money to the programs run by the church at Bear Valley.

One of those programs is called "Barnabus" which is dedicated to helping families to get to the prisons to see their loved ones. As most of you know, our prisons are mostly located in extremely rural areas in Colorado, and if it wasn't for this program which is the only one of it's kind in the state, many families would never be able to visit.

The banquet was a well-attended affair, perhaps 300 people. The largely Italian fare was prepared by the boys from the Chef Program at the Lookout Mountain Youth Detention Facility. They had a team of professional looking and very polite young men who acted as maitre' d's and made sure everyone had their needs taken care of. Ari Zavaras, Executive Director from the Department of Corrections spoke for a few moments and made a comment to the boys that perhaps they would want to come and work for the Department. A young man stood up and said, 'Sorry, we don't do prisons" to which Ari replied, "Amen".

There was also a choir of women who were brought in from the local women's prison and their handlers (the guards were pretty low-key and not quite attached at the hip), the women sang a collection of inspirationals and really did a wonderful job. What a day when the head honchos from DOC (Ari Zavaras, Steve Smith, Allison Morgan, and others) had dinner next to a table of prisoners on a seemingly level playing field.

The reason for the banquet was to honor the hundreds of volunteers who help to minister to prisoners and their families across the state and have been doing so for years. Our sincere and genuine thanks goes out to the folks of the Bear Valley Church for their ongoing commitment to helping prisoners and their families through their times of personal crisis. We applaud the efforts of all the ministries they are involved with.

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