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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.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Number of Jailed Soldiers Climbs

Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly running afoul of the law, bringing the stress of war to Colorado Springs’ streets. Most of it is small-time stuff.

But some of the allegations against soldiers in the past three years have been serious.
Earlier this month, police said a crime ring of Fort Carson Iraq veterans was responsible for the deaths of two GIs. The volume of military-related crime off-post is beginning to tax civilian law enforcement authorities. Felony El Paso County jail bookings for service members have jumped from 295 in 2005 to 471 so far this year. During that time, the number of soldiers assigned to the post stayed about the same, around 17,500. “It doesn’t take a study to know the potential for problems is going to be there,” said Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Jensen, whose agency is girding for issues with nearly 4,000 soldiers due back in the next three weeks. “It’s huge. It affects us from all standpoints. The workload alone is increasing as the population increases.”

Commanders at Fort Carson acknowledge that soldiers coming home from a year in combat often have difficulty fitting into the society they went to Iraq or Afghanistan to defend. It’s hard to turn off some of the reactions that will save your life in combat, but which will lead to grief in a bar, said Nate Nugin, who oversees Fort Carson training programs for returning soldiers.

The El Paso County Public Defender’s Office this year began tracking the number of soldiers it serves and found a disturbing trend among those accused of serious crimes.

“They did not have drug addictions before” the war, said Deputy Public Defender Sheilagh McAteer, who has been seeing more uniforms in her office in recent years. “They had no criminal histories before the war.”

Troops in Iraq live in the most controlled of environments outside the prison system.

Except during combat — when soldiers must make split-second, life-or-death decisions — they have few choices to make. Everything from how they dress to what they eat to how they can spend their free time is decided by the Army, for a year or more.

“You might be able to draw a correlation between someone coming out of prison,” said Colorado Springs police Cmdr. Brian Grady. “We need to help them with re-entry and give them access to the services available in this community.”

1 comment:

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