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.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Prisons And Jails are Local Issues

The problem with holding state prisoners in local county jails is that they don't have the program infrastructure to handle their work, education or treatment needs. They would literally have to make Fremont County Jail into a mini-prison in order to hold state prisoners for any lengthy period of time.

The Daily Record - The 2008 legislative session is shaping up to be a political battle, with both sides of the aisle jockeying for funding for a wide variety of causes.

“I feel like we’re going to have a very contentious year,” said Sen. Ken Kester on Thursday. “I think it’s going to be more partisan than we’re used to. This is an election year, and that will have a big influence on what’s going on.”

Kester, Rep. Tom Massey and Rep. Buffie McFadyen spent two hours Thursday afternoon visiting with local officials during the third annual informal legislative summit. The event, organized by the Fremont County Commissioners, was an opportunity for elected state officials to gather input from local constituents.

Between education, transportation and corrections issues, state representatives figure they have their hands full. But, they pledged to keep local priorities in mind as they head to Denver.

The hottest topic on the Fremont County burner was the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Issues included Colorado State Penitentiary II, filling county jail bed space with state inmates, inmate work release programs and enticing DOC headquarters to relocate here.

“We anticipate opening CSPII in 2009, 2010,” McFadyen said. “Where do we find funding for 500 FTE (full-time equivalency employees)? We learned what it’s like to have a jail and no dollars to staff it.”

With the recent opening of the Fremont County Detention Center expansion, local officials asked for help in keeping leased bed space full.

“The sheriff has a 48-inmate base target for ’08,” said Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden. “The commissioners would like to see that maximized.”

District 2 Commissioner Larry Lasha questioned the wisdom of sending overflow inmates to other states for incarceration, when Fremont County has bed space available.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Lasha said. “We’re sending inmates out of state, when we have extra bed space in the state.”

McFadyen said 470 Colorado inmates, mostly lower security, currently are held in Oklahoma prisons, a situation she hopes to change by bringing them back to the state and locking them up in county jails.

Florence City Manager Tom Piltingsrud said his town appreciated DOC Director Ari Zavaras reinstating inmate work release programs. The city, along with other local agencies, takes advantage of the crew for general cleaning and repair work.

“It’s been very beneficial,” said Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District Executive Director Jim Hoar. “I just question why we are still limited to one outside crew.”

Hoar said many different entities utilize the work crews, and together, they would have no problem keeping several more crews busy. McFadyen said the main problem was the state’s eligible inmates are currently held out of state. Another problem is finding the funds to pay the staff members who must monitor the work crews.

Norden said a local retired prison warden, Frank Miller, is seeking a meeting with Zavaras to discuss moving DOC headquarters here.

“Why not look to Fremont County?” Norden said. The county currently is home to nine state prisons, 10 when the new CSPII opens.

“We’ve got some infrastructure in place that could work out quite well,” said Bruce Redus, Cañon City Community Development Director. “It would lend itself very well to operations if they are considering decentralization.”

Finally, local business owner Eileen Blain asked officials to investigate the DOC Juniper Valley industrial program. She said it is in direct competition with local industry and is hurting Fremont County businesses.

“I understand inmates need to be involved in productive industry,” Blain said. “But, there is no way at the price they charge out I can compete. If they would charge out at standard industry rates, it would not be a problem.”

The legislators also briefly addressed transportation and education issues on Thursday, and agreed there never is enough funding to adequately address all problems.

“We need to revisit school finance,” said Massey. “It should not make a difference what neighborhood you go into for quality of education. We need to stop the bleeding and take control of the federal and state mandates that keep coming down without funding.”

Kester knows one thing — the state will have to make do with the income it already has.

“They’re talking about a tax hike and an extension to Referendum C,” Kester said. “I can’t support that. If we’re going to talk about raising taxes, I’m going to be opposed to that. Colorado has enjoyed an economic upturn. That should take care of us.”

“We are like Fremont County,” said Rep. Buffie McFadyen. “We have a lot of problems with not a lot of money. I don’t know that we have all the answers, but I know it’s going to be contentious.”

Daily Record

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