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.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pirate Company Cuts and Runs From Cornell Private Prison Company

Cornell is currently trying to build an 800 bed women's prison in Hudson, Colorado. CCJRC is opposed to all private prison companies in Colorado.

March 29 (Reuters) - Pirate Capital LLC said in a filing with U.S. regulators that it cut its stake in prison operator Cornell Companies Inc. (CRN.N: Quote, Profile, Research) to 8.9 percent.

As of March 6, Pirate Capital had a stake of 16.5 percent in Cornell.

The stake cut follows resignation of Pirate Capital founder and manager Thomas Hudson Jr. from Cornell board on March 5.

Hudson had resigned to pursue board efforts at The Brink's Co. (BCO.N: Quote, Profile, Research), including his previously stated plan to seek strategic alternatives more ardently. (Reporting by Chakradhar Adusumilli in Bangalore)

Article here

New Head of Parole To Be Confirmed

Senate Confirmation Hearing for Dave Michaud to take over the Parole Board will be next
Wednesday, April the fourth.

1:30 P.M. SCR 353

for a term expiring 07-01-09: David L. Michaud of Pueblo West, Colorado, to serve as a law enforcement representative, appointed; further, for a term expiring at the pleasure of the Governor

Review -- Sentencing Commission Bill

My Sentencing Commission guru Michael Connelly has gone through our Sentencing Commission Bill and offers this review. We appreciate his thoroughness and thoughtfulness
in taking the time to review the document and give us his take. HB 1358 starts it's long trek through the Capitol next Wednesday when it is scheduled to be heard in Judiciary.

I can’t say enough good about this bill. Its focus is on building an evidence-based foundation for determining what works best to reduce recidivism and victimization. Not one word about guidelines, so it avoids all the politics and problems of that. Links the new commission to Kim English’s exemplary research and evaluation unit. Has a juvenile justice expert as a required member, showing that the authors understand fully where real reduction of future crime and costs will come most from. Clear mission statement that members will be bound to: “To enhance public safety, to ensure justice, and to ensure protections of the rights of victims through the cost-effective use of public resources.” Gets it exactly right. Protect the public and rights of victims through cost-effective use of public resources. And makes its duties the collection and dissemination of what’s cost-effective and what’s not. The only negative in the bill is that the commission is sunsetted after 5 years, which just hands its opponents, who will be many if it’s successful, a fully-loaded weapon and encourages them and recalcitrant agencies that don’t want to change to hold out until the commission gets whacked. But, if the commission addresses those threats directly and strongly from the beginning, it may be able to prove its worthiness for permanence, so that’s not a deal-killer.

Think what is possible in CO if this passes. Real evaluation of programs, treatments, sentences themselves. If a 3-year sentence accomplishes as much in lowered recidivism and victimization as a 5-year sentence at lower cost to taxpayers, then policymakers will have to address that. If the 5-year sentence gets more of each, then the extra dollars involved may look more affordable. Probation achieve as much reduction of recidivism and victims as prison for this type of offender or offense? Okay, then, what do we do? If some sentences can be established as more effective than others (and I do have my doubts generally, which raises whole other questions about what we think we’re doing with sentencing, but that’s another post), then we can hold courts and their practitioners just as or more accountable for what they’re doing with disparity, justice, effectiveness than if we had guidelines to which conformity was expected.
Corrections Sentencing

NY Times Book Review-- The American Prison Nightmare

Among the many jarring sights I have witnessed as a reporter writing about poverty, one of the saddest involved a father, a son, and a maximum security prison outside Joliet, Illinois. The son, a voluble thirteen-year-old named Dwayne, wasn't a bad kid but had become increasingly troublesome in class. His father had been locked up since Dwayne was five, but still had influence with the three children he had left behind. Or so their mother hoped. Alarmed at her difficulties controlling the family, she looked to the sound of a father's voice to set things straight. It was a two-hundred-mile round trip from their home in Milwaukee, and I had the only car. Real Cost of Prison

California -- Riot at Private Prison

A race-related fight broke out at a minimum-security community prison, sending four inmates to the hospital with minor injuries, state prison officials said.

The fight at the Baker Community Correctional Facility in San Bernardino County occurred at 7 p.m. Wednesday and lasted a few minutes, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections.

Twelve black and white inmates started brawling in the yard of the all-male prison and guards rushed to break up the melee. About 80 inmates were in the yard at the time.

Four inmates were taken to the hospital with minor bumps and bruises. The cause of the fight was under investigation.

"They started to fight. They were told to stop and they did," Thornton said Thursday.

The 12 inmates were later transferred to state prisons, she said.

Contra Costa Times

Friday, March 30, 2007

SB 83 Parolee Voting

SB 83 passed on a voice vote this morning. Senator Penry - R introduced an amendment to strip parolee voting from the bill. His amendment was defeated 19-16. The only Dem to vote in favor of Penry's amendment was Lois Tochtrop from Adams County. The bill is now headed for third reading and is calendered for Monday. Please contact Senator Tochtrop and let her know how important it is that she vote "Yes" on SB 83.

HB 1313 was laid over until Monday.

Westword - Of Meth and Men - Update

Big kudos out to Bob Dorshimer and Rod Rushing on all of the excellent work that they are doing at the Council.

  • By Luke Turf -- In the gay bars, on-line at the “party and plays,” and in the bathhouses where meth-fueled sex runs rampant, “Tina” is still kicking a lot of ass. But gay men in Denver are preparing for the fight of their lives.

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health, the Mile High Meth Project is official through December. Some of that money is supporting a weekly Matrix group meeting, where gay men addicted to meth meet for two hours in a cognitive behavioral group process that’s more sbout educating users to the dangers of meth than it is about therapy.

The first week’s discussion focused on how the drug sucks up time. Rod Rushing, a counselor at the Council, a non-profit dedicated to fighting substance abuse, explained that 24 to 36 hours are involved in the process of getting high with meth. That includes getting the drug, prepping it and smoking it, staying high for hours and then spending hours more coming down before you try to find more meth.

Read the update here

Westword -- Searching For His Identity - Newest Installment on Casey

Casey Holden has a job, a bank account and an identification card issued by the State of Colorado. But in the eyes of many government agencies and private employers, he doesn’t quite exist. He lacks the essential paper trail.

Holden, 26, lost track of his vital personal records — birth certificate, Social Security card — over the past decade, most of which has been spent in prisons of one kind or another, including the state supermax. Now that he’s out on parole, a journey back to Citizenville he’s letting us follow by blog (see previous entries here), he’s finding out just how much of a nonperson a former prisoner can be.

Holden has a Colorado Department of Corrections ID card, but it’s regarded as something less than proof positive in this era of heightened identity-theft hysteria. “It makes no sense,” he says. “You can’t get no more state than this. You just look up my mug shot on the DOC website, and I’m there.”

His driver’s license expired long ago. Under tightened state rules, getting a new one has been an experience that Kafka’s bureaucracy-bedeviled Joseph K. could appreciate. He’s had to track down a copy of his birth certificate, replace his Social Security card and wade through forms and more forms. Fortunately, Mesa State College accepted his DOC ID when he enrolled there, and the student ID and his expired license got him an account with a local bank.

Casey's Story

Homeless Court

The tent city of homeless people that springs up most nights on the steamy grates beside Denver's City and County Building served as more than just a place for Nicholas Tucker to beat freezing temperatures.

The grates were a nightly reminder to the 27-year-old that he couldn't afford to miss another court date for his minor drug-related arrests.

"Every night for a month I've been sleeping on the grates so I would remember to be there on time," said Tucker, a Littleton High School dropout. "I have a long problem with not being places on time."

Tucker was scheduled to appear on March 2 in Homeless Court, an experiment the city has been running as part of an effort to do away with homelessness in Denver within a decade.

Since it began in July 2005, 46 people have gone through the Homeless Court process - far fewer than hoped - taking advantage of a chance to clear up their records.

Denver Post

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Growing Pot in the Suburbs

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- In Coldwater Creek, a middle-class housing development outside Atlanta, the neighbors mind their own business and respect each other's privacy - ideal conditions, it turns out, for growing marijuana in the suburbs.

Police this month raided an utterly ordinary-looking red-brick house on the block and broke up a pot-growing operation with 680 plants arrayed under bright lights.

"You'd never know from the outside. I guess that's the idea," said Doug Augis, who lives with his pregnant wife and a toddler in Coldwater Creek. "That doesn't give you a really good feeling."

Around the country, investigators are increasingly seeing suburban homes in middle-class and well-to-do neighborhoods turned into indoor marijuana farms. Typically investigators find an empty home, save a mattress, a couple of chairs, some snacks in the fridge and an elaborate setup of soil-free growing trays.

AP Report

Free Shaquanda

h/t to Grits for Breakfast and Sentencing Law and Policy and of course to Talk Left for alerting us to this story.

DALLAS - A teenager has been jailed for more than a year for shoving a teacher's aide at her high school, sparking anger and heightening racial tensions in rural East Texas.

Shaquandra Cotton, now 15, claims the teacher's aide pushed her first and would not let her enter school before the morning bell in 2005. A jury convicted her in March 2006 on a felony count of shoving a public servant, who was not seriously injured.

The girl is in the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex in Brownwood, about 300 miles from her home in Paris. The facility is part of an embattled juvenile system that is the subject of state and federal investigations into allegations that staff members physically and sexually abused inmates.

Under the sentence handed down by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, she will remain at the facility until she meets state rehabilitation standards or reaches her 21st birthday.

But her family and civil rights activists say they want her home now. They are condemning the sentence as unusually harsh and say it shows a justice system that punishes young offenders differently, depending on their race.

Creola Cotton, Shaquandra's mother, and activists argue that while Superville sent Shaquandra to the state's juvenile prison system, he gave a white 14-year-old arsonist probation.

As many as 400 people marched and rallied in Paris on Tuesday, the second such protest in as many weeks by civil rights groups.

AP Story here

Medical Marijuana User Fights System

Sometimes there's a fine line between consent and coercion.

Jack Branson learned that lesson the hard way in October 2004 when officers from the North Metro Drug Task Force knocked on his door.

Would Branson give consent to these officers to conduct a warrantless search of his home in Thornton?

Well, of course he would consent - especially after, as Branson tells it, the dozen or so armed cops explained, in detail, the needless tragedies that would befall his home if they were forced to go through the trouble of returning with a warrant.

In they went.

The police, naturally, knew exactly what they were looking for.

Denver Post

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sentencing Commission Bill Introduced

Rep. Terrance Carroll and Senator Ken Gordon introduced their Sentencing Commission Bill today. The language of the mission addresses the need to reduce recidivism which follows what Gov. Bill Ritter and D.O.C. Executive Director Ari Zavaras have been saying for the past few months. This certainly isn't the answer to our immediate problem of reducing the prison population but it may have some strong effects down the road.

HB 1358.

Excerpted from the Bill

States that the mission of the commission is to enhance public
safety, ensure justice, and protect the rights of victims through the
cost-effective use of public resources. Requires the commission to:
Conduct an empirical analysis of and collect evidence-based data on sentencing policies and practices; Investigate effective alternatives to incarceration, the
factors contributing to recidivism, evidence-based
recidivism reduction initiatives, and cost-effective crime
prevention programs;

Make an annual report of findings and recommendations,
including evidence-based analysis and data;
Study and evaluate the outcomes of commission
recommendations as implemented;
Conduct studies and make recommendations concerning
policies and practices in the criminal justice system.

Prioritize areas of study based on the potential impact on
crime and corrections and the resources available for
conducting the work; and work with other state-established boards, task forces, or
commissions that study or address criminal justice issues.

Directs the commission to create advisory committees that will
study and report findings on issues the commission is considering.
Requires the division of criminal justice in the department of public
safety to provide staff assistance to the commission. Permits the
acceptance of gifts, grants, and donations for the operation of the
commission, and creates a cash fund for the receipt of those moneys.
Repeals the act on July 1, 2013.

Full Bill Here

Colleges and Universities Screening For Crimes

Michael over at Corrections Sentencing gives us several different items, one in from the Real Cost of Prisons that alerts us to the fact that colleges and universities are screening folks for past misbehavior.

Along with SAT scores and extra-curricular activities, college-bound students increasingly are being asked to divulge information that may not be so flattering: their arrest and discipline records.

Since late summer, the Common Application, a form used by about 300 institutions, has asked students and guidance counselors whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime or disciplined at school.

Kids with rocky pasts may not make it beyond 12th grade.

In an effort to weed out troublemakers before they hit campus, colleges with their own forms also are requiring prospective students to disclose behavioral black marks. More, including Temple, Rowan and Rutgers Universities, are contemplating it.

Real Cost of Prisons Article here

And here's a study that shows how kids with ADHD are more likely to start drinking earlier than their peers. I wonder how these two stories will end up working together. (I printed the whole article because the link is hard to follow)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research confirms that children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at risk for alcohol problems later in life and indicates that drinking problems may begin around age 15.

Having parents who abuse alcohol, and increased levels of stress in the family, add to the likelihood that teenagers with childhood ADHD will develop alcohol problems, according to the study.

Dr. Brooke Molina, from the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh and colleagues followed 364 children diagnosed with ADHD into their teenage years (age 11-17) and adult years (age 18-28).

"Our findings have revealed that starting around the age of 15, children with ADHD have higher rates of heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems diagnosable as alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence," Molina told Reuters Health.

The 15- to 17-year-old children in the study with childhood ADHD reported being drunk 14 times, on average, in the previous year, versus only 1.8 times for age-matched teens who did not have childhood ADHD.

Fourteen percent of 15- to 17-year-olds with ADHD were diagnosed with alcohol abuse or dependence compared with none of the similarly aged subjects without ADHD.

The findings appear in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

"We also found that by early adulthood, those children with ADHD who continued to have serious behavior problems such as irresponsible behavior, rule-breaking behavior, and unlawful behavior, drink more heavily and have alcohol-related problems too," Molina said.

In related research, Molina's team interviewed 142 adolescents with childhood ADHD and their parents and found that parental alcoholism predicted alcohol use among teenagers. This association was partially explained by higher rates of stress in these families and these connections were stronger in teens with ADHD in childhood.

The bottom line, said Molina, is that ADHD "increases risk for alcohol problems, and that these children are probably best served by ongoing monitoring and involvement by parents and others who may help children with ADHD stay on track academically and socially as they mature toward adulthood."

"Our ongoing work," she added, "is on understanding the myriad reasons why alcoholism is more prevalent in this population. For example, we know that serious behavior problems such as defiance and delinquency usually co-occur with these drinking problems, but we don't know how currently available treatment affects these outcomes in the long run."

California --Protestors Mob Capitol

SACRAMENTO -- Busloads of protesters fighting new prison construction mobbed the capital today while inside the Statehouse the simmering politics surrounding California's prison overcrowding crisis boiled into full view.

The protesters, gathering for Beyond Prisons Day, attacked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to build 78,000 prison and jail beds, saying $11 billion worth of bricks and mortar are no substitute for true reform.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the state Senate slapped a moratorium on bills that would lengthen criminal sentences and exacerbate overcrowding -- a maneuver that infuriated Republicans.

Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, said she would hold until next year all bills that would intensify crowding.
LA Times here

Private Prison Evictions

This story illustrates how private prison companies will hold a state hostage.

OKLAHOMA CITY The director of the Department of Corrections told lawmakers today more state prisoners may be evicted from Oklahoma's private prisons unless prison operators are paid more to house, feed and care for them.

D-O-C Director Justin Jones told members of the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee he cannot sign contracts to house state prisoners in private prisons at ever-increasing market rates unless the Legislature authorizes it.Jones said the state pays about 46 dollars a day to house prisoners at the state's five private prisons. But he said other states that also house prisoners at Oklahoma private prisons pay as much as 54 dollars a day.

Roads and Prisons Beat Schools

The new state budget unveiled by Colorado legislators Monday once again underscores the difficult choices facing the state's money managers.

Simply put, passage of Referendum C in 2005 provided the state with enough extra cash to accelerate its highway construction program or restore the severe cuts made in higher education during the 2002-05 budget crisis - but not both.

The new budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is the third spending plan to reflect the extra revenue voters authorized by approving a five-year timeout from the revenue ceilings imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. And like its two predecessors, the 2007-08 budget applies Ref C revenues disproportionately to transportation needs while keeping other programs, including higher education, on a lean budget.

The upcoming budget contains at least $237 million from the state's $7.2 billion general fund earmarked for additional transportation funding, with 90 percent of that sum earmarked for highways and the remaining 10 percent to mass transit. That $237 million bonus is on top of the $620.1 million the Colorado Department of Transportation receives in earmarked highway funds, mostly from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees channeled through the Highway Users Tax Fund. CDOT also administers an additional $415.3 million in federal highway funds.

In contrast, Colorado's battered network of community colleges, four-year colleges and universities eked out just a $52 million increase in the 2006-07 operating budget - just $1 million more than the $51 million increase funneled to prisons. Higher education at all levels will receive just $746.3 million in state aid next year.

Denver Post

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Trying Children As Adults


In the early 1990’s, as a result of the Central Park jogger case, prominent and influential individuals, such as former Princeton professor and Bush Administration appointee John DiIulio, made doom and gloom predictions about the emergence of a “generational wolfpack” of “fatherless, Godless and jobless” youth. This superpredator phrase stuck and almost every state passed new laws to make it easier to try and sentence youth in the adult criminal justice system. Now researchers estimate that approximately 200,000 youth are prosecuted in adult courts every year. This places youth at risk of assault, suicide and death in adult jails and prisons. The consequences of an adult conviction are long-term, serious and life-threatening. This book is designed to help policymakers understand the full impact of these policies
Download here

Seeking Justice in The Drug War

Twenty years ago fears about crack cocaine addiction and its associated violent trade plagued urban communities across the country. Newscasters used words like “crisis” and “epidemic”—later shown to be overblown—to describe the impact of crack. The political hysteria that ensued led Congress to pass the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. The law’s mandatory penalties for crack offenses were the harshest ever adopted for low-level drug offenses.

Two decades later, a new consciousness about the impact of the war on drugs, the costs of incarceration to urban communities and the effectiveness of drug treatment has emerged among public officials. At a time of political change in Washington and a renewed interest by the United States Sentencing Commission in addressing the issue, Congress may be on the verge of mending the crack injustice.

Tom Paine Article

NY Times Editorial- A Smoother Re-Entry

Thanks to Doug Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy for pointing us to this editorial in the NY times about the need for an overhaul of our reentry policies nationwide.

With corrections costs going through the roof, states and localities are beginning to figure out the long-term costs of just shoving inmates out the door when their sentences are finished. To prevent people from ending up right back inside, states will need to embrace re-entry programs that provide ex-offenders with training, jobs, places to live and a range of social services that don’t exist in most places.

This month, the Washington State Senate passed a farsighted bill that could be a model for the nation. It would require the state Corrections Department to fashion individual re-entry plans — detailing job training, drug treatment and educational goals — for every inmate. The bill, which is expected to pass the House as well, would provide a tax incentive for companies that hire previously incarcerated people, and would prompt a review of state laws that may bar felons from state-licensed occupations that are in no way related to their offenses. NY Times

1.25 Billion Dollar Budget Increase

Among the budget highlights:

Three new driver's license stations would be opened in Jefferson, Larimer and Adams counties, costing $5.8 million and staffed with 53 new workers. To pick up the tab, the state would collect an additional $4.40 per driver's license and $25 per license plate.

Public schools would get an extra $313 million. The average funding per pupil statewide would rise from $6,359 to $6,650.

Medicaid - the state and federally funded health care program for the poor - would get a $64.7 million increase to cover higher medical costs and growth in the number of people getting aid. State officials project 383,784 Medicaid clients at an average per-capita cost of $5,530.

The state court system would get $6 million to pay for 113 additional probation officers and other staffers - one of several nods to Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's efforts to reduce the number of repeat offenders released from the state prison system.

The overcrowded prison system would receive $7.6 million to cover the costs of double-bunking male prisoners at four state- operated prisons and an additional $8.4 million to house inmates in private prisons and local jails.

State universities would have an extra $7.4 million for financial aid.

Democratic and Republican senators split into separate meetings Monday afternoon to begin discussing the spending plan.

In the Democrats' caucus, lawmakers raised concerns about whether the budget document properly shows the impact that Referendum C, a revenue-boosting measure approved by voters in 2005, is having.

Since Referendum C passed, the state has had an extra $3.28 billion to spend on programs, with education, colleges and universities, and Medicaid consuming most of the money.

Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, said the budget presentation fails to show how much extra money spills over into road-construction spending as a result of formulas built into the budget. The chart shows the state has spent $45 million on transportation.

In the Republican senators' meeting, lawmakers were grilling their JBC representative, Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, about prison spending and staffing levels. Sen. Ron May, R-Colorado Springs, wanted to know if 242 additional corrections workers will be working in a new prison slated to be constructed. Johnson pointed out the state cut 585 prison workers in 2003.

Denver Post

Techno - Corrections- Alcohol Ankle Bracelet

Recovering alcoholic Cris Daniel hasn't touched a drop of liquor in over four months - and he can prove it.

Daniel, like hundreds of other Coloradans, is being screened by a high-tech ankle bracelet that continuously "sniffs" for alcohol in his system.

The anklet - known as SCRAM, for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor - analyzes the wearer's sweat droplets and transmits information to a computer watched by probation officers and other officials.

Since SCRAM was introduced in 2003, more than 2,000 offenders in Colorado have been monitored, the manufacturer says.

Authorities in Denver and Greeley and with the state corrections system, all of which now use the bracelets, say they help

cut down on alcohol abuse and alcohol-fueled crimes and are more reliable and harder to fool than other monitoring methods.

Denver Post Article Here

Monday, March 26, 2007

Candy Flavored Drugs

Back in the 70's they used to sell chocolate and strawberry flavored mescaline. It appears the "candy" coating of drugs has made a resurgence as Mike Connelly over at Corrections Sentencing alerts us to the fact that now they are doing it to Meth.

The appearance of "Strawberry Quick" in Greene County came less than two weeks after the Nevada Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin about flavored methamphetamine seized during a Jan 27 apartment search in Carson City.

"It seems to have progressed very quickly from west to east," Gibson says.

"Strawberry Quick," the bulletin said, "is popular among new users who snort it because the flavoring can cut down on the taste. Teenagers who have been taught meth is bad may see this flavored version as less harmful. 'Strawberry Quick' is designed for the younger crowd."

"They are having a tough time selling this product, especially to young people. What do people in marketing do when they have a tough time selling a product? They have to come up with some sort of gimmick."

Read the article here

Budget Announcement -- $51 Million Increase For Prisons

We will keep you updated as we hear more. It's sad to see that we spend nearly as much on an increase in the prison budget as we do in higher education and health care. Actual budget increase for prison is 51.7 million and for higher education is 52.2 million. That will take the Corrections budget to nearly $703 million dollars.

Here's the link to the actual budget if you want to read the entire thing

(AP) DENVER Lawmakers introduced the state budget in the Senate on Monday, a plan that will increase spending for education, health care, higher education and prisons.

The $17.8 billion budget for operating expenses and capital construction includes an increase of $185 million for public education, $52 million for health care, $52 (Actual is 52.2) million for higher education and $51 ( Actual is 51.7 ) million for prisons.

Because voters agreed to give up tax surplus refunds for five years to shore up the state budget, the state will be allowed to spend another $1 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Lawmakers have said they want to focus this year on developing Colorado renewable energy industry by providing incentives and improving health care and education to attract new businesses.

They said they also want to provide more money for renewable energy by cutting prison costs and reducing recidivism.

Parolee Voting Poll

There is a poll on Sen. Brandon Shaffer's website where you can vote on whether you support people on parole being allowed to vote.

From the website:

We heard three hours of testimony this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding a parolee’s right to vote. Currently, parolees are NOT allowed to vote in Colorado. Legislation has been introduced to give them that right. Do you think people on parole should have the right to vote in elections? Why? Why not?


Drug Court - The Other Side of the Coin - Colorado Confidential

This in from Colorado Confidential:

The return of Denver's drug court this week has been hailed by everyone from the mayor to the district attorney to graduates of the program. The Denver Post's headline Friday read, "Drug court gives addicts 2nd chance," and the Rocky Mountain News announced, "Drug court called step for practicality. But while drug courts may benefit some people, not everyone thinks they're so hunky dory - a fact neither daily bothered to mention.

Although Denver's drug court officially began March 9, both stories appeared in Friday's newspapers because of a press conference held Thursday, during which Denver officials lauded the return of drug court and made several chosen graduates "available for interviews." While again, drug courts may very well help some people, there is opposition, and the media should look at them with a critical eye rather than simply repeating what's said at a press conference. Colorado Confidential brings you the other side of the story.

While proponents of drug courts say their purpose is to get people into treatment instead of prison, others disagree.

"It's real purpose is docket management" says Christie Donner, director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. "It's not matching people up with treatment."

Donner also believes drug courts just "widen the net" of law enforcement. She says there's no shortage of drug users on the streets to be caught, and drug courts allow them to be shuffled through the system faster. She says Denver's drug court helped the city clear out LoDo when it was being redeveloped in the early 1990s.

Morris Hoffman, a Denver District Court Judge since 1990, saw the widening net firsthand.

"In Denver, we grossly underestimated the enthusiasm with which our police and prosecutors would embrace the idea of the drug court. As a result, our projections of the number of drug filings in the new drug court were woefully understated," Hoffman writes in "The Drug Court Scandal," a scathing critique of drug courts published in 2000 in the North Carolina Law Review.

The number of filings in the drug court tripled after its first year, Hoffman writes.

Donner and Hoffman also say that fundamentally, drug court doesn't work.

"It's the slow road to prison," Donner says.

Kerri Rebresh :: Drug Court: The Other Side of the Coin
Colorado Confidential

Texas Youth Prison Outcry

AUSTIN, Tex., March 22 — “Investigations hot line,” said Brian Yasko, answering the phone at the Texas Youth Commission in a windowless command post that officers are calling “the belly of the beast.”

Quickly, Mr. Yasko began scribbling down details of yet another complaint, this one from a mother who said her son at the San Saba State School, now called the John Shero State Juvenile Correctional Facility, had been threatened by a sexually deviant corrections officer.

Yes, said Mr. Yasko, an investigator for the inspector general of the state Department of Criminal Justice; she could remain anonymous. “What I’ll do is send this out to the field and have investigators interview your son,” he promised.

Since a sexual abuse scandal at the Texas Youth Commission became public last month, prompting mass firings and resignations, more than 1,100 investigations have been opened into new accusations of rape and other mistreatment. At last count 282 cases had been closed without action.

Many of those complaints have been flooding into the makeshift situation room here staffed around the clock by employees of the inspector general’s office of the adult prison system and of the state attorney general’s office.

These officers, in turn, parcel out the cases to about 100 investigators from the two agencies and the Texas Rangers who are interviewing witnesses at 24 youth detention centers and scores of small contract facilities across Texas, where more than 4,000 youths ages 10 to 21 are serving sentences of at least nine months — but almost always longer — for criminal violations.

Ny Times Article Here

Yoga in Prison

I have been hearing great things about the program at Lookout Mountain. It gives kids a chance to learn more about themselves, master the art of self-control and think about things from a different perspective. Kudos out to CCJRC member Kate Crisp for her ongoing work.

LANSING, Kan. (AP) -- Lama Chuck Stanford started visiting a small group of Buddhist inmates in Kansas about six years ago.

"Then word got around that I was doing this," Stanford says, "and I started getting calls from prison chaplains around here telling me they had Buddhist inmates interested in getting groups going."

Now Stanford serves four prisons -- the Lansing Correctional Center, the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, and two state prisons in Missouri. He's on the road two days a week, most days serving groups of 10 men at each prison.

Stanford is among a quietly growing number of Buddhist teachers working in U.S. prisons, tending to inmates who had been raised Buddhist or who discovered the ancient faith later, many while incarcerated.

U.S. prisons are also offering meditation and yoga for their general populations.

The Prison Dharma Network in Boulder, Colo., leads yoga and meditation and also sends books and correspondence to inmates U.S.-wide and around the world.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Berkeley, Calif., has meditation, yoga, and journal-writing programs in several California prisons, and the National Buddhist Prison Sangha in Mt. Tremper, N.Y., has been supporting prison inmates since 1984 with visits, letters and reading material.

Kate Crisp, executive director of the Prison Dharma Network in Boulder, Colo., teaches yoga, meditation and peacemaker classes at the Boulder County Jail.

Her organization also teaches classes on meditation at the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in Golden, Colo. The facility is Colorado's only long-term maximum security youth correctional facility for boys.

It took a couple years to convince corrections officials that Prison Dharma Network could be of some help at Lookout. The youths at Lookout, who range in age from 14 to 21, "have never experienced anything like meditation in their lives," Crisp said.

"They've always been worried about 'Who's going to get me? Who's going to shoot me?' Now it's 'Oh my God, there's a place where I can relax. I have a choice.' It slows them down from the constant pounding in their heads."

Read the Article here

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How Media Influences Criminal Justice Policy

This paper was recently released by Sara Sun Beale from the Duke University School of Law.

This Article argues that commercial pressures are determining the news media's contemporary treatment of crime and violence, and that the resulting coverage has played a major role in reshaping public opinion, and ultimately, criminal justice policy. The news media are not mirrors, simply reflecting events in society. Rather, media content is shaped by economic and marketing considerations that frequently override traditional journalistic criteria for newsworthiness. This Article explores local and national television's treatment of crime, where the extent and style of news stories about crime are being adjusted to meet perceived viewer demand and advertising strategies, which frequently emphasize particular demographic groups with a taste for violence. Newspapers also reflect a market-driven reshaping of style and content, resulting in a continuing emphasis on crime stories as a cost-effective means to grab readers' attention. This has all occurred despite more than a decade of sharply falling crime rates.
Download the paper from this site

Thousands of Teens May Be Released in Texas

March 24, 2007
Texas, Addressing Sexual Abuse Scandal, May Free Thousands of Its Jailed Youths By RALPH BLUMENTHAL, NY Times

HOUSTON, March 23 — Battered by a sexual abuse scandal in its juvenile justice system, Texas may soon free most of the 4,000 jailed youths who have served their minimum sentences but who are still being held, in many cases for reasons that are undetermined.

Under plans announced Friday by the special master whom Gov. Rick Perry appointed to supervise the tarnished Texas Youth Commission, the cases of all juveniles who have served more than the nine-month minimum — 93 percent, by some accounts — will be reviewed by a panel of civil rights advocates, prosecutors and a youth official, reporting to a state judge. Unless the Youth Commission, which runs the state’s youth detention centers, can demonstrate that such juveniles pose a danger to the community, they will be released.

“The burden is on the state,” Jay Kimbrough, the special master, said in Austin at a briefing for reporters. “I have seen enough and heard enough.”

Mr. Kimbrough’s move is the latest turn in a case that broke last month with news that a Texas Ranger investigation in 2005 had corroborated sexual contacts between boys at the West Texas State School, in Pyote, and two top supervisors, who then resigned without charges filed.

Youth Commission facilities are permitted on their own to extend sentences for misconduct, but parents of some young inmates say those decisions are often made capriciously, sometimes in retribution for the filing of grievances. And lawmakers suggested at a hearing last month that some youths had received lengthened sentences for refusing to have sex with corrections officers.

The approach announced Friday was described by Will Harrell, executive director of the Texas office of the American Civil Liberties Union, as groundbreaking and “huge.”

Mr. Harrell, who will serve on the review panel along with representatives of the N.A.A.C.P. and the Hispanic rights group Lulac, said that “this is all going to happen fast.” He and Mr. Kimbrough said the panel could be in place within weeks.

The announcement came as federal officials confirmed an unrelated inquiry into accusations of sexual abuse at a federal center for detained illegal-immigrant children in South Texas. The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that a staff member suspected of molesting children at that center, the Texas Sheltered Care facility in Nixon, east of San Antonio, had been fired and that the F.B.I. had turned the case over to Texas prosecutors.

Real Cost of Prisons

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Politics and The War...On Drugs

Thanks to Sentencing Law and Policy for this article from Arianna Huffington

THERE IS A subject being forgotten in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House.

While all the major candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed "war on drugs" — a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.

Consider this: According to a 2006 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino.

Such facts have been bandied about for years. But our politicians have consistently failed to take action on what has become yet another third rail of American politics, a subject to be avoided at all costs by elected officials who fear being incinerated on contact for being soft on crime.

Perhaps you hoped this would change during a spirited Democratic presidential primary? Unfortunately, a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls' websites reveals that not one of them — not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson — even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.

The silence coming from Clinton and Obama is particularly deafening.

Obama has written eloquently about his own struggle with drugs but has not addressed the tragic effect the war on drugs is having on African American communities.

LA Times article

Charles Harrelson in Supermax

Read the eloquent letter that outlines the existence in a Supermax facility

His cell had one small window. "We're able to see nothing outside the walls except the sky. Part of the plan here is sensory deprivation. It probably works on some of the residents. I'm pretty sure it hardly bothers me at all."

He added: "Everyone here must find a way to fill the hours of each day. To me it is essential I stay busy. ... every waking moment is filled with something, ... reading, writing or doing chores (I'm a clean freak)."

Harrelson wrote that his life was better than some others'. "I have my family and friends. I still have a relatively intact mind. It could be infinitely worse."
Denver Post and Letter

Prison Guards - Not a Good Job

Mandatory sentencing laws, and less time off for good behavior, reduce leverage that guards need to control prisoners.

Now these men and women, who face growing numbers of inmates in some of the nation's toughest federal and state prisons, say they're increasingly overwhelmed.

Yet research suggests a staggering downside. Correctional officers' life expectancy hovers around 59 years, compared with 77 for the U.S. population overall, according to insurance data.

Prison jobs promise a comfortable retirement, "but many of these guys don't live long after they retire," said Dr. Gary Mohr in Cañon City, who has treated guards who had heart attacks.

Their work forces guards "to put up a shield," Mohr said. "It's hard to take that shield off when you go home. It's hard to open up to the wife and kids."

Correctional officers, he said, "are doing time too. ... A lot of them are not able to detach. ... Alcohol problems. Domestic violence. They have a propensity. The very things they are supposed to be against, they end up doing.

"You can't just wash it off like in a shower."

Denver Post

Friday, March 23, 2007

Alcohol More Dangerous Than Ecstasy?

Some of Britain's leading drug experts demand today that the government's classification regime be scrapped and replaced by one that more honestly reflects the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco. They say the current ABC system is "arbitrary" and not based on evidence.

The scientists, including members of the government's top advisory committee on drug classification, have produced a rigorous assessment of the social and individual harm caused by 20 substances, and believe this should form the basis of any future ranking.

By their analysis, alcohol and tobacco are rated as more dangerous than cannabis, LSD and ecstasy.

They say that if the current ABC system is retained, alcohol would be rated a class A drug and tobacco class.

The Guardian

Who Returns To Prison? An Oklahoma Study

We have been looking to reduce recidivism and a good place to start is by trying to find out who is most likely to return based on the data. Michael Connelly over at Corrections Sentencing has a number of articles that he has posted to help us understand how corrections works and doesn't work. It is important to be able to ascertain in advance at some level who is at risk to return to prison. Only then can we begin to provide the correct services necessary to help them be successful in their reintegration or better yet, prevent them from going in the first place.

Who Returns to Prison?: A Survival Analysis of Recidivism Among Adult Offenders Released in Oklahoma, 1985-2004

This study tracked 60,536 adult offenders released from Oklahoma prisons between 1985 and 1999, in order to identify the factors linked to any return to prison (recidivism) before May 31, 2004. The study found that property offenders were at greater risk of recidivism than drug, violent, or sex offenders. Other factors linked to recidivism were being released to probation rather than being discharged; having a history of violent offenses; having a greater number of past incarcerations; and being young, male, and of a minority race. Sentence length and the length of time in prison had weak but significant associations with recidivism.

Corrections Sentencing Research

SB 83 and HB 1313

Both Sb 83 (Parolee Voting Bill) and HB 1313 will be up for a vote on Monday. We're hitting the homestretch on both of these important bills. Please contact your Senators and let them how important these bills are. If you don't know who your Senator is go to www.votesmart.org
Thank you for your support.

Second Chance Act - HR 1593

HR 1593
“[Formerly incarcerated individuals] are ill-prepared in leading a law-abiding life. It is not surprising they are re-arrested within three years of their release,” said Rep. Scott. “This is a compelling issue; one that we have worked on in a bi-partisan way. Hopefully we can get this bill passed into a law ASAP.”

The Second Chance Act reauthorizes the grant program targeting people returning to the community after prison in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. It improves reentry planning and implementation, and creates mentorship programs. The bill would authorize about $100 million over two years to provide states with grants to develop model programs for currently and formerly incarcerated persons in the areas of housing, drug treatment, mental-health counseling, job training and education.

“We can no longer release prisoners with new clothes and a five dollar bill, and expect them to become good citizens,” said Rep. Forbes during the hearing.
“They don't know what they're doing when it comes to recidivism,” Cowley, a former prison warden said of wardens and parole officers. He suggested that prison administrators' jobs should be held accountable if recidivism rates do not decrease. He added that without the passage of the Second Chance Act, successful re-entry “won't be done the way it needs to be.”

“You've started something, quite frankly, that needs to be finished,” he told the Committee. “If it isn't done, the message goes out [to prison administrators] ‘if they really don't care, why should we bother anymore.' Second Chance is a shot in the arm for the system, for victims, administration. We're just waiting for the resources.”

Peters' testimony focused on the impact of drug disorders within the criminal justice system.

“Treatment has been found to consistently reduce criminal recidivism, drug use, family violence, unemployment, and welfare dependence among criminal justice populations. Substance abuse treatment reduces drug use by about half, reduces crime by up to 80%, reduces arrests up to 64%, and increases employment by 40%. Treatment is also effective across different criminal justice settings, including prisons, jails, work release centers, day reporting centers, and drug courts,” stated Peters in his written testimony.
Sentencing Project

Veterans Returning - The Next Treatment Crisis

This article in from the Drug Policy Alliance's Asha Bandale and Tony Newman outlines the next crisis we are going to have in this country as people are returning home from the Middle East.

The stories are pouring in. Large numbers of veterans returning from Iraq are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. A frequent reaction to both of these painful health challenges is the use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs. Veterans, closed out of meaningful support when they return from the frontlines, seek relief of their symptoms through self-medication.

Some get better. Tragically others do not.

For some vets, many of them on longer-than-expected tours of duty, the self-medication begins even before they have left the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. A March 13 front-page story in the New York Times addresses the issue of drug use among soldiers: "It's clear that we've got a lot of significant alcohol problems that are pervasive across the military," said Dr. Thomas R. Kosten, a psychiatrist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. He traces their drinking and drug use to the stress of working in a war zone. "The treatment that they take for it is the same treatment that they took after Vietnam," Dr. Kosten said. "They turn to alcohol and drugs."


Marijuana and Alcohol Denver's Drug of Choice

Boulder's heroin surge, which detectives hope they quashed this week, apparently has not been repeated outside Boulder County.

Across Colorado, heroin use has stabilized or even tapered off slightly in the last couple of years, state drug experts say.

Perhaps more significantly, evidence suggests that methamphetamine use dropped statewide last year for the first time in a decade.

"User-wise, it does seem like meth has gone down," said Tom Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which keeps tabs on drug trends in a four- state region.

But he and other experts cautioned that they will need to see the numbers drop for more than a year in order to believe it's anything more than a blip on the radar.

Rocky Mountain News

Drug Court Press Conference

Did I mention that drug court can be a slow road to prison for those who can't comply to financial obiligations set by the court? They have provided funding for mental health treatment in this version of drug court, but Colorado is still DEAD LAST in the nation for funding for substance abuse. Until we address that fundamental issue, we are not as innovative, humane or imaginative as we might like to think.

Denver first launched a drug court in 1994, but the program was scaled back a few years ago as federal funding dwindled.

The new version - for which the city will provide $1.2 million a year - targets lesser drug offenders who aren't dealers or violent, said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

"This is a court where we are selecting ... people that have addictions - people that we can hopefully help get out of the criminal justice system," he said.

Those who go to drug court can begin treatment in three to five days, down from three to six weeks through a regular court, said Larry Naves, chief judge of the Denver District Court.

"We expect that there will be between 2,200 and 2,500 felony drug cases filed in the Denver District Court this year," Naves said. "That's about 40 percent of our caseload. ... We estimate that some 40 to 60 percent of those cases will (instead) go to drug court."

Once an offender is sentenced to drug court supervision, he or she is required to submit to random drug tests, attend treatment and regular court reviews, perform public service and pay fees and costs.

Those participating can graduate within nine months if they meet the conditions of their probation.

"We know that these (drug court) services are remarkably less expensive than sending people to jail and to prison and remarkably more successful at giving people a second chance," said Mayor John Hickenlooper.

"What we want people to know is that recovering from addiction and getting on with a productive life after a run-in with the law is not only possible but it happens every day. It happens to thousands of people a year."

Another drug-court graduate - 22-year-old Larry Flores, a former ecstasy and marijuana user - said the program "grabbed me from what I was doing ... all my life.

"It just helped me get back on track," he said. "I'm in school now, trying to get it right."

Denver Post

Rocky Mountain News

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Supreme Court On Banner Case

WASHINGTON - A high school senior’s 14-foot banner proclaiming “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” gave the Supreme Court a provocative prop for a lively argument Monday about the extent of schools’ control over student speech.

If the justices conclude Joseph Frederick’s homemade sign was a pro-drug message, they are likely to side with principal Deborah Morse. She suspended Frederick in 2002 when he unfurled the banner across the street from the school in Juneau, Alaska.

MSNBC Article

Brain Injury Affects Moral Choices - Ny Times Article

Damage to an area of the brain behind the forehead, inches behind the eyes, transforms the way people make moral judgments in life-or-death situations, scientists reported yesterday. In a new study, people with this rare injury expressed increased willingness to kill or harm another person if doing so would save others’ lives.


HB 1313 - Update

HB 1313 made it through State, Veterans & Military Affairs committee yesterday on a 3-2 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor for second reading, we will keep you up to date as it progresses. . If HB 1313 passes it would allow people to use their prison ID in conjunction with other documents to get a state identification card or driver's license.

New Drug Court in Denver

Easing populations in the jail is the goal, but is there going to be money for treatment? The hardest thing for people to do is pay for all the dictates from the court. Mandatory urinalysis and good treatment is very expensive especially in Colorado, because we have very few treatment options available for people, especially for women. If you don't give people the tools they need to complete their court mandated program this just becomes a slow road to prison.

Denver officials today will tout a new version of drug court with hopes of unclogging the city's jails and getting treatment to addicts.

The new program, expected to cost $1.2 million annually, will speed up the sentencing of drug defendants, which currently can take up to six weeks, said Larry Naves, the chief judge of Denver's district court.

Details will be announced at a news conference today.

Naves said that under the new program, which started March 9, sentencing for those defendants could take place within three to five days.

The re-emergence of drug court is aimed at reducing crowding in Denver's two jails. Currently, the jails average up to 2,500 inmates on a given day, but they were built for 1,711 inmates, said division chief Gary Wilson of the Denver Sheriff's Department.

Officials hope the new drug court will move inmates out of the jails and get them into treatment programs that will help them break free from a life of crime, he added.

About 41 percent of felony cases in Denver involve defendants with drug issues, Wilson said.

In 1994, Denver started one of the first drug courts in the nation. Under that program, a single judge handled all drug cases. Low-level offenders avoided prison by enrolling in drug treatment.

Denver Post article

Public Money Private Doubts

This money could certainly be better spent on prevention and intervention instead...

A plan to partially fund a gang task force in the Denver district attorney's office with private donations was met with skepticism Wednesday from City Council members who worried about "selective prosecution."

The concern came as the city's Finance Committee met to discuss spending about $225,000 this year for a four-person team focusing on gangs. As part of the deal, Mayor John Hickenlooper and District Attorney Mitch Morrissey have negotiated for a private source to donate as much as $150,000 of the $425,000 needed over the next 18 months.

The mayor's administration has refused to name the source.

Council members said they worried about the possible conflict of interest where the district attorney's office would have to prosecute someone that has given them money, or worse, that a prosecutor would decide not to pursue a case against a donor.

"It does concern me that you have a law enforcement function that could be dependent on private sources," Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz said.

"Selective law enforcement would be the worst thing the city could do. We just want to assure people that that never, ever happens."

Liza Willis, a chief deputy in Morrissey's office, said the private funding would come from a nonprofit organization.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Private Prison To Close in Oklahoma

HINTON - The Great Plains Correctional Facility will close indefinitely "the first week of April," leaving some 190 employees at the private prison without work, a company spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

"The decision to close came down to contract negotiations with DOC (state Department of Corrections)," said Christine Parker, a spokeswoman for the
Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc.

Only 290 state inmates remain at the private prison from a population that was once 800 as recent as October. State corrections spokesman Jerry Massie
said the remaining inmates are scheduled to be moved no later than April 6.

State guards began relocating inmates after prison officials announced they would not renew their state contract in October. Parker said the decision
came after months of negotiations.

At the time, a contract extension with the state was being discussed. Massie later said the extension wasn't necessary.

"The closure has nothing to do with the escapes,” Parker said. "We had already decided not to renew our contract with DOC by then.”

The prison closure is sure to send economic shockwaves through Hinton, a quaint Caddo County community of some 2,200 people.

Sayre experienced a similar closure in 2003 when the privately operated North Fork Correctional Facility was closed indefinitely, leaving some 225 workers unemployed in Beckham County. The prison re-opened three years later.

"We are in active discussions with several of our clients about inmates,” Parker said. "At this time, we don't have a contract with any of them.

"For now, we will maintain a skeleton crew at the prison after the closure.” Read article here (you will have to register first)

Colorado has 488 prisoners at a private prison in Oklahoma at the North Fork Facility.

Charles Harrelson Dies in Supermax

Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson, died in the Supermax federal prison where he was serving two life sentences for the murder of a federal judge, officials said Wednesday.

Harrelson, 69, was found unresponsive in his cell the morning of March 15 and apparently died of natural causes, said Felicia Ponce, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman in Washington.

Ponce did not know the cause of death. Fremont County Coroner Dorothy Twellman did not immediately return a call.

Harrelson was convicted of murder in the May 29, 1979, slaying of U.S. District Judge John Wood Jr. outside his San Antonio home. Prosecutors said a drug dealer hired Harrelson to kill Wood, who was nicknamed ''Maximum John,'' because he did want the judge to preside at his upcoming trial.

Harrelson denied the killing, saying he was in Dallas, 270 miles away, when Wood was killed.

Rocky Mountain News

SB 83 (Parolee Voting) Makes It Through Judiciary

Sb 83 has passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-3 vote. CCJRC and others testified in support and SB 83 has been sent back to the Senate for second reading. The question before the committee was in reference to the constitutionality of people on parole being allowed to vote.

Hepatitis C Raging Through Prisons

The most dangerous thing coming out of prison these days might be something most convicts don't even know they have: hepatitis C.

Nobody knows how many inmates have the disease; by some estimates, about 40 percent of the 2.2 million in jail and prison are infected, compared with 2 percent of the overall population.

Eventually, when these inmates are released, medical experts predict they will be a crushing burden on the health care system, perhaps killing as many people as AIDS in years to come. At the same time, they will be carriers, spreading the disease.

Hepatitis C can be treated, but many prisons do not test for it. Among the reasons: Budgets are tight and treatment is expensive. So prison officials close their eyes to the gathering emergency and pass it along to the outside world.

Baltimore Sun Article here

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Professor Named to Community Corrections Board

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has appointed LiYing Li, chair and professor of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Metropolitan State College, to serve on the Denver Community Corrections Board.

Her appointment came on the recommendation of Thomas O. Moore, director of the city's Division of Community Corrections.

Li earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Utah in 1994 and her master's degree in demography from the University of California-Berkeley in 1986.

Rocky Mountain News

NEW HEAD OF PAROLE -- Breaking News

Alan says it best, so I'm just printing the whole thing...

It’s old home week in the Ritter administration, as multi-pensioned top cops who worked with the guv when he was Denver’s DA find new state criminal-justice jobs. Former Denver police chief Ari Zavaras was recruited to try to fix the bloated budget at the Department of Corrections — again; and today ex-DPD chief Dave Michaud was nominated to head the Colorado Parole Board, a supposedly thankless job that still manages to render $91,428 a year in bare-bones compensation.

Michaud replaces Al Stanley (above), who presided over a board that, through the Owens years, squeezed discretionary parole to a trickle and helped to shape the prison overcrowding problem that we now have.

The bigger problem, though, is that in the Owens years the board neatly evaded the statutory requirement to have four ordinary “citizens” among its seven members, in addition to representatives of law enforcement. Stanley’s board was made up of two citizens, an ex-parole officer, an ex-police chief, an ex-state trooper, a former corrections officer and Stanley himself, who has thirty years in law enforcement.

Will Michaud’s board be any different? That will depend on who else Ritter appoints as vacancies become available. In the meantime, for a better understanding of how the parole failure rate costs us all, check out the feature “Over and Over Again” and “I Shall Be Released,” our ongoing blog series about the parole struggles of Casey Holden. –Alan Prendergast

Westword blog

Rocky Mountain news;

Former Denver Police Chief David Michaud has been nominated by Gov. Bill Ritter to serve as chairman of the Colorado Parole Board.

Michaud served as chief from 1992 to 1998.

During those years, he was one of the highest-profile chiefs in Denver's history, overseeing The Summit of the Eight, the Oklahoma City bombing trial and the pope's visit.

"David truly understands the reforms we are trying to initiate to lower Colorado's unacceptably high prison recidivism and repeat offender rates," Gov. Ritter said in a formal announcement today. "He is a decorated law officer who will help keep the people of Colorado safe while bringing an unmatched mixture of skills, leadership and vision to the parole board."

Rocky Mountain News

CCJRC Matching Grant Opportunity

CCJRC has received a matching gift grant of $5,000!

Any donation that is made to CCJRC by a new member will be doubled up to $5,000!!
Please help us take advantage of this wonderful oppotunity and become a member of CCJRC.

If you have ever thought about becoming a member of CCJRC, now is the time!!
Visit our visit our secure membership page here!

Volunteers, activists and donors - it is the combination that makes a driving force.
We are nearly 5,000 members statewide, and that is truly the backbone of CCJRC.

Our combined work is what moves forward an aggressive agenda that will create change in our state. As members, we write letters to newspapers and elected officials, attend meetings,
organize communities and groups to bring about the realization of our mission.
All of these measures are vital to our success, but your donation is very important.
To achieve our goals, to coordinate activities and groups, to testify and lobby the legislative body, to plan, purchase and distribute flyers, posters and newsletters, to do the
work big and small that will assure that we are not only heard, but listened to; requires your financial support.

Thank you very much for your support and involvement.

To join right now, online (with a credit card), visit our secure membership page (your credit card information will be encrypted and protected).

CSP II Gettin Closer - But Can It Be Staffed?

Groundbreaking is near for the long-awaited Colorado State Penitentiary II and the project is in the bid process, Rep. Buffie McFadyen told a handful of citizens Saturday.
“We’re just waiting for the final piece of funding,” McFadyen said during the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce Legislative Hour. “It has gone out to bid, so it is in the process.” McFadyen, one of the six members of the Colorado General Assembly Capital Development Committee, said the CSP II is four years behind but is scheduled to be completed by late 2009 or early 2010.
“What worries me is I’m not quite sure how we’re going to staff it,” McFadyen said. She noted although funding nearly is complete for construction, it is not yet in place for employment at the facility.

That apparently contradictory set of facts forced McFadyen to look beyond the simple construction of a new prison.

“We as a legislature really need to sit back and evaluate the costs of incarceration,” she said.

“We are now sending inmates to Oklahoma,” said McFadyen, who said private prisons are not the solution to the corrections crunch facing Colorado. She admitted she has a “disdain” for private prisons.

Canon City Daily Record

Mesa County Funds Meth Project

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — A regional study of methamphetamine use and related crimes is under way that will help quantify the problem in Garfield County. Results will also direct the efforts of a newly formed task force headed up by the District Attorney's Office.

Students from Grand Junction's Mesa State College are combing through court records in Mesa, Delta, Garfield and Montrose counties to determine just how much the courts are impacted by meth. The data will be used by the task forces to determine the extent of the meth problem, said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney. Data collected from court records and interviews with jail inmates will identify the frequency of meth-related crime in the counties.

Monday, the Garfield County commissioners voted to contribute $2,200 to the study. The District Attorney's Office has already contributed $800. Cheney has also applied for a $3,000 El Pomar Foundation grant to fund the study.

"There's ample anecdotal information that it's a problem here, but we don't have empirical data," Cheney said.

Cheney estimated 50 percent of the cases in felony court in the 9th Judicial District, which encompasses Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, "have meth as an ingredient."

Michael Gizzi, associate professor of criminal justice and political science at Mesa State, who is in charge of the study, said meth-related crime in Mesa County is about 86 percent of the felony cases that come up in District Court.

Gizzi's students will provide data and analysis "to measure the impact of meth on the criminal justice system and the community in general," he said.
Glenwood Springs PI Article

Pep Talk? Black Students Pulled Out Before CSAP's

Before students at Morey Middle School took CSAP tests this year, school administrators pulled all the African-American students into two assemblies and told them that, as a whole, they were not performing as well as their peers at the school.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders were told that the school's principal and assistant principal care about them and that they wanted to hear from them about what they could do to help.

This has sparked controversy at the Denver middle school, where some parents say the achievement gap is so dramatic that drastic conversations such as this must take place. Others, though, decry the assemblies as inappropriate and insensitive because they unfairly single out students by their skin color.

Denver Post

Lies, Damned Lies and Drug War Statistics - Book Review

There is probably not a single drug reformer alive who, at some point, has not sputtered into his coffee cup upon hearing some inane pronouncement from drug czar John Walters. We know what he is saying is wrong and unjustifiable. Sometimes we even go to the effort of thoroughly debunking one of his outrageous claims. It's not that hard to do, really, but up until now, no one had thoroughly deconstructed the claims made by the Office of National Drug Control Strategy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office), testing them against the norms of science and reason.

That has changed with the recent publication of "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics," by Appalachian State University Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Matthew Robinson and Associate Professor of Political Science Renee Scherlen. Since the annual National Drug Control Strategy reports put out by ONDCP form the basis for crafting federal drug policy, this pair of professors decided to systematically put to the test the claims made by ONDCP as a foundation for those policies.

Read the entire Book Review on "Stop the Drug War"

Diane Carman -- Damm Case

The story of Linda Damm's murder last month in Lafayette is enough to make an ambitious prosecutor's nostrils flare in eager anticipation. This is lurid, made-for-TV movie material.

This is a slam-dunk conviction.

From the alleged stabbing to the reports of failed attempts to dispose of her remains, the bizarre details continue to emerge. The allegation that the kids partied at the house after the murder with the body decomposing in the back of a car parked in the garage is enough to seal their fate with your average jury.

The murder trial for 15-year-old Tess Damm and her 17-year-old boyfriend, Bryan Grove, is a long way off, but many already have made up their minds.

Paul Mones has seen it all before.

"These cases are very easy to prosecute," said the Portland, Ore., attorney who specializes in defending children charged with parricide (killing a parent). ....

"Brain development isn't complete until a person is about 21 or 22," Spiegle said. "For adolescents, the decision to resolve a problem is usually based on impulse and very inadequate ability to form good judgments in crisis."

The crime often is committed in a "very frenetic way," he said, followed by a feeling of great relief or euphoria.

The circumstances of parricide cases vary widely, Mones said, but two features appear in the case files of almost every murder of a parent by a child.

One is that the children have been abused and that the abuse observed by people on the outside is just a fraction of what the child endured, Mones said. "It's the proverbial tip of the iceberg."

The other constant is that the tragedy could have been prevented, if only a cop, a teacher, a relative, a neighbor - somebody, anybody - had bothered to listen.

Read Diane Carman's article here

Lafayette Police Sent Report

Lafayette officers made at least one referral to county social workers about family problems in Linda Damm's home before her daughter was arrested and accused of participating in her killing, Police Chief Paul Schultz said Monday.

Boulder County social workers insist they never received the referral - despite police paperwork showing a fax had been sent. They blame either a technical glitch in a fax machine or a "human glitch," such as someone inadvertently throwing away the report.

To prevent similar problems in the future, the agencies agreed to change the system. Police now will send in a weekly report about referrals they have made and social service workers will check it against what they received and then notify police.

Social services director Paula McKey said the referrals will be sent by e-mail so there is an audit trail.

"We have to move from here and make sure this type of thing doesn't happen again," McKey said following a meeting Monday with Schultz.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Coffman Goes After Parolee Voting

Colorado's secretary of state and Pueblo County's clerk are from different political parties, but they have identified a common enemy in an election bill making its way through the Legislature.

The bill, SB83, started out with the support of Secretary of State Mike Coffman and the county clerks' association, including Pueblo Clerk Gilbert Ortiz Jr. In its original form, it would have permitted voting centers at a ratio of one voting center for every 10,000 voters

But when legislators amended the bill to require one voting center for every 5,000 voters, Ortiz said, "You start losing cost-effectiveness."

And when the bill was amended to attempt to allow felons on parole from prison to vote, Coffman said, "That raises serious constitutional issues. I'll ask the governor for a veto if that passes, and I believe the attorney general will, too."

Because of the parole issue, the bill was sent back to the Judiciary Committee on Friday.

Pueblo Chieftain

The bill was sent to committee on Friday to clarify a constitutionality question.

Drugs and Cellphones at Virginia GEO Prison

Last year, more than twice as many inmates were caught with drugs at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center as in all other Virginia prisons combined.

State officials also said that more than one in five cell phones confiscated in prisons during the year came from Lawrenceville, the state's only privately operated prison, run by GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., since 2003.

And in an unusual case, two former Lawrenceville officers caught by the FBI with 14.6 grams of crack cocaine pleaded guilty last month to charges of conspiring to deliver drugs to inmates there.

The state disclosures and federal convictions support former Lawrenceville inmate David Eugene Davis' claims that marijuana, cocaine and cell phones were smuggled in by staff and readily available to Lawrenceville inmates for a price.

"It's crazy over there. It's just unbelievable . . . it's wide open," he said in interview in January. "You can buy a cell phone for $150."

State officials have confirmed they are investigating Davis' claim that a former lieutenant extorted $2,000 from him at the 1,536-inmate, medium-security facility in April.

Richmond Times Dispatch

Officers Surrender in New York

NEW YORK (AP) -- Three police officers surrendered Monday to face charges in the shooting that killed a groom on his wedding day.

The policemen, accused of firing most of the 50 shots at three young men in a car outside a nightclub, were being fingerprinted and processed Monday morning before their arraignment.

Michael Oliver, who fired 31 times, and Gescard Isnora, who fired 11 bullets, face felony manslaughter charges, according to a person close to the investigation, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the results were secret. Marc Cooper, who fired four shots, faces a misdemeanor endangerment charge, the person said.

Rocky Mountain News

Drug Policy Alliance -- Prop 36 Works

Lou Martinez went to the California Capitol last week to explain to legislators the importance of continuing to make substance abuse treatment available. Lou is one of more than 60,000 graduates of California’s voter-enacted Proposition 36, the state’s six-year-old, treatment-instead-of-incarceration law. Now he is a treatment counselor in Sacramento, working with a few of the 36,000 people currently enrolled in substance abuse programs through Prop. 36 statewide.

Last Thursday, Lou testified at a budget hearing to share how positively Prop. 36 has intervened in his life.

“I had been using drugs throughout the 1990s, and arrested numerous times for simple possession and being under the influence…. It wasn’t until I was referred into Prop. 36 that I was able to get the treatment that I needed…. I was able to receive services from highly trained, seasoned counselors. I was able to receive psychological services, physical health screening, and employment opportunities and referrals. And I was put in a sober living environment for 90 days, because I was homeless at the time.”

Go to the DPA article here

OP-Ed -- Engage the Public in Criminal Justice Issues

This in from Ft. Collins. Last year, CCJRC helped to educate voters on what building a new jail would cost the citizens of Larimer County. We still contend that there are no available beds for in-patient substance abuse treatment. Tackling that issue from a long term public safety perspective instead of just building a bigger jail would relieve some of the pressure. Another factor that hasn't been addressed is the need for significant bond reform.

The sheriff and county commissioners have been wrestling over a very real need in our community - jail beds. However, the issues are much broader than what may appear in newspaper headlines. Sheriff Jim Alderden is absolutely correct when pointing out the risk to deputies and inmates when a detention facility is under staffed. However, the commissioners are also correct in stating that this is not an uncommon problem state and nationwide and they must balance the needs of all requests that come to them with very limited financial resources.

The question isn't who is right or wrong or whose position is the most reasonable or enlightened, but rather, how does the community want to address public safety issues? If the jail is capped at 450 when the population is consistently more than 500, many who are now determined to be appropriately incarcerated will have to be released. Larimer County has instituted innovative programs such as pretrial release, work-enders, midweek work details and work release. These programs have been effective in reducing the jail population without significantly jeopardizing public safety.

Ft. Collins Coloradoan

Hispanic Caucus to Take on Racial Disparity in Prison

DENVER - The Colorado Legislature has long had its four major caucuses made up of the two separate chambers and the two major political parties.

Though at times the caucuses are used for purely political purposes, they are generally helpful for party leaders to help like-minded people think alike.

So with the large number of Latino lawmakers in the Legislature, it's no surprise a handful of them have created the Colorado General Assembly Hispanic Caucus this session.

That bipartisan group of representatives and senators, which includes several from Southern Colorado, focuses on civil rights matters affecting Hispanics and Latinos living in the state.

In a draft letter obtained by The Pueblo Chieftain, the final version of which is still being worked out, the group says:

"With this legislative session, we have become increasingly concerned with the additional statutory requirements that have been introduced into legislation," the letter reads. "These additional statutory requirements have had a negative impact on legal immigrants, as well as other Colorado citizens."

The group - includes such regional lawmakers as Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D-Antonito, and Pueblo Democrats Sen. Abel Tapia and Rep. Dorothy Butcher

The caucus, which plans to rewrite portions of the letter and deliver it to their fellow legislators soon, also addresses concerns about an increase in the number of Hispanics being sent to Colorado prisons. The group calls on the Legislature to address that, in part, by helping reduce the state's high school dropout rate, and through early childhood development programs.

Pueblo Chieftain Article