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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Techno - Corrections

Here's a great post by Mike Connelly on Technocorrections that really gets to the heart of what Techno Corrections is all about. It is most likely the wave of the future as the costs of imprisonment continue to rise. It's a concept that is quickly becoming a reality though and in the case of non-violent offenders it's the most practical.

Your state faces rising correctional costs as far as the eye can see. These rising costs not only drain taxpayer dollars from communities and their schools, health care, transportation, and economic development. They also take resources away from other important areas of criminal justice—juvenile justice, mental health, law enforcement, jails, prosecution, and courts. If those correctional costs could be controlled or, better, reduced through effective non-incarceration techniques, state taxpayers might receive more relief without jeopardizing public safety or potential victims.

Women in the Fields

Using prisoners for farm labor has been a big topic in the last few months, the pilot program that the Department of Corrections wants to start will be right outside of Pueblo. How many prisons do we have in Pueblo? Just one, and it's a women's minimum security prison. Yep, they are putting the girls to work in those fields.

Two Fridays ago, a carful of Mexican workers showed up at Pisciotta's office off Highway 50, but it's not clear whether more will follow. Hedging his bets, Pisciotta, along with a handful of other local farmers, has signed on to a pilot program with the Colorado Corrections Department that could supply them with 10-member crews of low-security female prisoners.

The program has made headlines well beyond Colorado, and not because of the proposal to use prison labor. Rather, it's the scheme's easy equivalence between undocumented workers and U.S. citizens who've been convicted of crimes and stripped of their rights. Sure, nativists long have tried to persuade us that crossing the border without papers is equivalent to committing a capital crime. But the fact that a group of Colorado farmers has turned to prisoners to meet labor needs says a whole lot about why so many U.S. employers prefer illegal immigrant labor in the first place — it's cheap, dependable yet impermanent, and, well, they have no rights either.


Gang Bust Doesn't Stop the Need

The largest gang bust in Denver won't really change things in the long run. It will stop drugs and violence for a short time. Those are holes that will be refilled. Thirty years of drug war activity has proven one thing. The War On Drugs has failed. We need to run the battle from a different place. Start with poverty and racial and class disparity, don't end with it.

The demand for illegal drugs and weapons continues.

Eid is relying on "the signal this sends to other gangs. We can do this over and over again. And we will."

That's the wild card in every operation of this scope. What the cops see as a deterrent, gangsters might see as an opportunity.

"You go for the most violent, and this (group) is different in terms of the kind of violence," Eid said. "So if you can decapitate that, you send a signal to the ones who are not quite as crazed as this group is."

Sadly, it might have as much to do with potential profits as craziness.

"Not everyone was taken off today," DA Morrissey acknowledged after Thursday's news conference. "That's something you have to watch. A part of this is that there is a demand. And there are people that will fill the void. Why we did this on the grand scale is we want to try to contain it. Then, when they try to fill the void, they're not nearly as organized or as complex."

Just as the bust was very bad news for gangsters, Morrissey's reasoning was sound. But the wads of cash seized in raids and displayed in evidence photographs behind him told a parallel tale. That story is about the need for much greater investments in drug-abuse prevention, gang alternative programs and family planning. It is about money and manpower spent to make schools that work.

In addition to jailing the worst of the worst, the risk-rewards ratio must change on both sides of the equation.

The Rollin' 30s and Tre Tres bust produced $1.65 million in contraband cash, according to law enforcement officials. That's still a whopping lot of incentive for young people who think their professional alternatives are welfare, day labor or flipping burgers at Mickey D's.Denver Post

Minorities More Likely To Be Arrested

Everyone gets pulled over equally, according to this most recent study by the Bureau of Justice. What happens from that point is the disturbing part.

Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested, a federal study found.

Police were much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere, according to the Justice Department.

The study, released Sunday by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, covered police contacts with the public during 2005 and was based on interviews by the Census Bureau with nearly 64,000 people 16 or older.

"The numbers are very consistent" with those found in a similar study of police-public contacts in 2002, bureau statistician Matthew R. Durose, the report's co-author, said in an interview. "There's some stability in the findings over these three years."

Traffic stops have become a politically volatile issue. Minority groups have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions. Blacks in particular have complained of being pulled over for simply "driving while black."

"The available data is sketchy but deeply concerning," said Hilary Shelton, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Washington bureau. The civil rights organization has done its own surveys of traffic stops, and he said the racial disparities grow larger the deeper the studies delve.

"It's very important to look at the hit rates for searches - the number that actually result in finding a crime," Shelton said. "There's a great deal of racial disparity there."

The Denver Post

Head of Texas Youth Commission Facility Fired

HARLINGEN, Texas — The superintendent of Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg is being fired amid multiple investigations into alleged inmate abuse at the facility, the Texas Youth Commission said Friday.

Bart Caldwell was notified Thursday night that pre-termination proceedings against have begun, TYC spokesman Jim Hurley said.

Caldwell can appeal the decision, but he is no longer at the high-security facility, Hurley said. He is being replaced by Eduardo Martinez, the superintendent at Giddings State School, another high-security facility.

Caldwell said Friday he had no comment.

State officials on March 16 said they had opened 27 investigations into inmate complaints at Evins. The announcement came a day after a scathing federal report decried "chaotic and dangerous" conditions there. The U.S. Department of Justice investigation found the prison violated youths' constitutional rights with high levels of violence, overcrowding, and an insufficient number of guards.

Chronicle Story

More On The GEO Prison Riot

After just one day of training last month, Muncie resident Kara Scott said she knew that the New Castle Correctional Facility was not a safe place to work, and that "something terrible" was going to happen there.

"I was not going back after the first day. It's dangerous," she said Wednesday, a day after 500 inmates rioted, set fires, destroyed furnishings and damaged buildings on the 77-acre campus, located on the north side of New Castle

  • 202 inmates were shipped from the New Castle Correctional Facility to other prisons in Indiana overnight after being caught on tape during the riot.
  • Remaining inmates at New Castle -- including a mix of Indiana and Arizona offenders -- were secured in the dormitory-style cell houses. Some reportedly helped staff clean up debris from the riot.
  • Officials said the cause of the riot remained under investigation.
  • Both of the prison staffers injured in the riot were treated and released from Henry County Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, and at least one returned to work on Wednesday.
  • Investigators with local and state police, Indiana Department of Correction and GEO continued to review surveillance tapes to identify prisoners who either battered prison staff or damaged property.
  • Henry County Prosecutor Kit Crane had not determined how many inmates might be charged with crimes, though he noted that many of the 450 to 500 inmates involved did not do anything criminal and would be handled administratively.
  • A spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections said that officials there saw the problem as not just one of the quantity of prison staff overseeing Arizona inmates in New Castle but quality of guards.
  • Here's an opinion piece from Arizona: "Arizona Prisoners Should Be In Arizona"


    Sunday, April 29, 2007

    5 Star Jails

    This is just disturbing. If you can pay for a "good" jail, you are not subjected to the horrors and violence that happen in most public jails. There are thousands of people who are convicted of non-violent crimes, but because they are poor they will suffer the consequences of class.

    SANTA ANA, Calif., April 25 — Anyone convicted of a crime knows a debt to society often must be paid in jail. But a slice of Californians willing to supplement that debt with cash (no personal checks, please) are finding that the time can be almost bearable.

    For offenders whose crimes are usually relatively minor (carjackers should not bother) and whose bank accounts remain lofty, a dozen or so city jails across the state offer pay-to-stay upgrades. Theirs are a clean, quiet, if not exactly recherché alternative to the standard county jails, where the walls are bars, the fellow inmates are hardened and privileges are few.

    Many of the self-pay jails operate like secret velvet-roped nightclubs of the corrections world. You have to be in the know to even apply for entry, and even if the court approves your sentence there, jail administrators can operate like bouncers, rejecting anyone they wish.

    “I am aware that this is considered to be a five-star Hilton,” said Nicole Brockett, 22, who was recently booked into one of the jails, here in Orange County about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and paid $82 a day to complete a 21-day sentence for a drunken driving conviction.

    Ms. Brockett, who in her oversize orange T-shirt and flip-flops looked more like a contestant on “The Real World” than an inmate, shopped around for the best accommodations, travelocity.com-style.

    “It’s clean here,” she said, perched in a jail day room on the sort of couch found in a hospital emergency room. “It’s safe and everyone here is really nice. I haven’t had a problem with any of the other girls. They give me shampoo.”

    For roughly $75 to $127 a day, these convicts — who are known in the self-pay parlance as “clients” — get a small cell behind a regular door, distance of some amplitude from violent offenders and, in some cases, the right to bring an iPod or computer on which to compose a novel, or perhaps a song.NY Times

    Saturday, April 28, 2007

    When Kids Get Life

    FRONTLINE presents

    When Kids Get Life - Premiere to be shown at REGIS (details below)

    Tuesday, May 8, 2007, from 9 to 10:30 P.M. ET on PBS

    The United States is one of the only countries in the world that allows children under 18 to be
    sentenced to life without parole. Human Rights Watch reports that more than 2,200 inmates are currently serving life without parole in the U.S. for having committed murder when in their teens, with only 12 serving the same sentence in the rest of the world. FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel (The O.J. Verdict, Innocence Lost) travels to Colorado to profile five cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole in When Kids Get Life, airing Tuesday, May 8, from 9 to 10:30 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings).

    Colorado was an early pioneer in juvenile justice, focusing on the rehabilitation of the child rather than punishment. But in the late 1980s and 1990s, when a sharp increase in violent crimes by young offenders attracted enormous press, legislators nationwide found it easy to clamp down. “Crime has always been a big political issue, and so it’s very easy for politicians to say, ‘Let’s punish; let’s make the sentences longer; let’s not let people get out,’” says Norm Mueller, a veteran defense attorney in Denver. In Colorado, the Legislature changed the definition of a life sentence from 40 years before parole eligibility to natural life and expanded the power of district attorneys to treat juveniles as adults, bypassing the discretion of juvenile court judges.
    In 1992 the U.S. ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires that juvenile imprisonment focus on rehabilitation, but reserved the right to sentence juveniles to life without parole in extreme cases, involving the most hardened of criminals, the worst of the worst.
    In spite of the dire predictions of the ’80s and ’90s, teenage crime rates have gone down. Fear of young offenders seems to have subsided.
    In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for juveniles, and there
    were some discussions across the country about re-examining the harsh punishments meted out to juvenile offenders. In 2006, Colorado was the first state to pass a reform bill changing juvenile life without parole to 40 years before parole eligibility. Watered down to ensure passage, the bill was not retroactive. The 45 former juveniles now serving life without parole in Colorado—including Jacob, Erik, Nathan, Trevor and Andy—will die in prison.

    “The decision to not make it retroactive was probably a compromise, perhaps a political deal,” says Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan. “The families of victims are very powerful advocates.” Gail Palone, the mother of Trevor’s victim, is unforgiving: “At least their family gets to go to the prison system and spend Thanksgiving with them. We never got that. We have to go to the cemetery. When Trevor was found guilty, they promised us that he would get life in prison with no chance of parole. The state promised us that, and the state should
    see to it that that’s what happens.”

    The opponents of juvenile life without parole, a growing movement, vow to continue their effort. Curt Jensen, Erik’s father and co-founder of the Pendulum Foundation, explains: “It’s been an ongoing battle now for six years basically, for educating the public and working with the state Legislature. It’s a battle that only ends when this state Legislature and the next governor agree that juveniles have to be treated differently than adults and that they have to be given a second chance.”

    SAVE THE DATE: TUESDAY, May 8, 2007
    PBS Frontline comes to Colorado with powerful 90-minute documentary:
    JOIN The Pendulum Foundation, Regis University students and faculty,
    community leaders, legislators, press and the public
    for the May 8, 2007, premiere:

    "When Teens Get Life"

    Time: 7:30-11:30
    Tuesday, May 8th
    Place: Regis University
    3333 Regis Blvd.
    Denver, Co

    5 Colorado prisoners convicted as children speak about serving life inside adult prison.

    The Pendulum Foundation speaks out against lifelong incarceration.

    Family members, district attorneys, and juvenile justice experts speak out for
    and against juvenile life in prison without possibility of parole.

    Reception, including Food and Drink
    Prisoner artwork and poetry, bake sale, raffle community booths

    8:10 - 8:50
    2 prisoners featured in documentary will call in from prison

    9:00 - 10:30
    Showing "When Teens Get Life"

    10:30 - 11:00
    Q & A

    RSVP Maryellen@pendulumfoundation.com or 720-314-1402

    The crime scene was gruesome. In December of 1992, 15-year-old Jacob Ind murdered his mother and stepfather. The troubled family life that led to such a heinous crime slowly unfolded over the course of his trial. Jacob’s defense claimed that he had endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather, who repeatedly raped him and his brother. But prosecutors argued that what happened at home was exaggerated as an excuse to kill. Jacob is now 29. “All I wanted was something to end,” he says. “I didn’t really grasp the permanency of their deaths. I definitely didn’t understand the gravity of what it means to kill somebody.” But the law for first-degree murder does not allow exceptions, regardless of age. Judge Jane Looney declared at sentencing that her “hands were tied”: She was required by law to sentence Jacob to life without parole.

    In 1998, Nathan Ybanez and Erik Jensen were high school students in a wealthy suburb of Denver and members of a local band aptly called Troublebound. Erik came from a secure, affluent household; Nathan came from an abusive one. Within a year and a half of their meeting, Nathan had killed his mother, and Erik was implicated in the crime by another friend involved in the cover-up. Both Nathan and Erik were sentenced to life without parole. How did two boys with no criminal records end up involved in murder and penalized with a sentence the U.S. claims to reserve for “hardened criminals” who constitute “an extreme danger to society”? Erik is now serving his ninth year. “In 10 years I’ll either be on the streets or dead,” he says. “I’m not going to keep doing this.”

    Trevor Jones was trying to scam $100 from a classmate, but the plan went awry when his gun
    discharged and killed Matt Foley, who was attempting to purchase the weapon. At the trial, the jury determined that Trevor had no intention of shooting anyone and what had happened was reckless manslaughter—basically a very bad accident. But because the accident occurred in the commission of armed robbery, Trevor was found guilty of felony murder and sentenced to life without parole. He is now spending his 10th year in prison and will never be free again.

    Felony murder is a controversial law that charges criminals with murder, regardless of intent, if a death occurs in the commission of another felony. In Colorado it is a form of first-degree murder that carries a mandatory life sentence. As defense attorney Tom Carberry explains, in a felony murder situation, “You don’t have to be the murderer, but if you’re involved in certain crimes and somebody dies, then you’re guilty of first-degree murder, life without parole.” Kathleen Byrne is an independent appellate attorney who often works for the state to uphold felony murder convictions. But she finds herself doubting the justice of the law she is paid to defend. “It’s a very harsh rule,” she says. “And I think a lot of people question whether it’s an appropriate rule to maintain. It may be time for it to go.” Nationwide, it is estimated that a quarter of the juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole were convicted of felony murder, which assigns the same culpability to everyone involved in the felony, even if the actual murder is committed by only one person in a group, unbeknownst to the others.

    Andrew Medina was also charged and sentenced for felony murder. He was only 15 when he
    and two acquaintances attempted a carjacking. Someone fired a gun, and the driver, 17-year-old Kristopher Lohrmeyer, died. There were three suspects, and no one knew for sure who fired the fatal shot. But two of the suspects made deals with the prosecutor, pleading guilty and naming Andy as the triggerman. Andy, however, was not tried and sentenced for pulling the trigger, but for being party to the carjacking at the time of Lohrmeyer’s murder. He was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life without parole.

    Andy is currently in the Colorado State Penitentiary, the state’s notorious supermax, where he has served more than four years with virtually no human contact.

    When Kids Get Life is a FRONTLINE co-production with Ofra Bikel Productions. The producer, writer and director is Ofra Bikel. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by The Park Foundation. FRONTLINE is closed captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation. The
    executive producer for FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

    Record Sealing Bill HB 1107

    HB 1107 (The Record Sealing Bill)
    Call or Email Senate Appropriations Committee Members
    Hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee -- Monday April 30
    7:30 A..M. Senate Committee Room 356

    The Record Sealing Bill (HB-1107) strongly passed out of the
    House on a 46-18-1 vote and passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously.
    Your calls and emails make a huge difference.

    Here's what you can do to help:

    Please contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee (the list is at the end
    of this email) and urge their support of HB 1107.
    Pass this email to as many friends and colleagues as possible.
    It is time for the final push on this bill to get through the Senate! Let’s keep the powerful momentum going.

    WHAT THE BILL DOES -- Colorado law does not allow a person with a criminal conviction
    to seal their record – regardless of the nature of the criminal conviction, the length of time since the
    conviction, or evidence of rehabilitation. Even after people have completed their sentence
    and been law abiding for years or even decades, they are forever stigmatized by having a criminal record.
    Even minor offenses, committed many years ago, can prevent someone from
    obtaining housing and meaningful employment or advancement in their career field.

    The possibility of being able to seal a criminal record is a strong and real incentive for a person to turn his/her life around.

    A recent study found that, after six or seven years from an arrest, the likelihood of offending
    for young men with criminal records looks quite similar to those with no criminal history.
    For employers concerned about hiring people with criminal records, a criminal record offers
    vanishingly little relevant information once a critical period of time has passed. Therefore, overtime,
    a criminal history is both less relevant and less accurate in predicting future criminal activity.
    However, the stigma and bias remains. Scarlet Letters and Recidivism: Does An Old Criminal Record
    Predict Future Offending?,Kurlycheck, Brame and Bushway, Criminology and Public Policy, Vol 5, No 3 (August 2006)

    HB 1107 would allow people convicted of select crimes to petition the Court
    to seal a criminal record after they completed their sentence and been offense free for 10 years.
    · Convictions for some crimes would not be eligible to be sealed including:
    Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses or class A or B traffic infractions, DUI/DWAI,
    sexual offenses, domestic violence, offense involving a pregnant women or convictions
    for crimes involve aggravating circumstances, high risk, or special offender sentencing enhancements.

    · The Court does not have to order the sealing. The Court is required to balance
    the privacy rights of the petitioner against the public’s right to know on a case by case basis.

    · For offenses committed before July 1, 2007, the District Attorney will have
    to agree before the Court can order the record sealed.

    · Law enforcement will always have access to any sealed record.

    · The petitioner must have paid all of the fines, fees, costs and
    restitution ordered in the criminal case. The petitioner will also
    pay a filing fee that is sufficient to cover the cost of the proceeding.

    HB 1107 has many checks and balances in it that strike a
    good balance between the public’s (and employers) right to know and a person’s right to privacy.

    Senator Abel Tapia - Committee Chair
    Democrat - Pueblo
    Phone 303-866-2581

    Senator Moe Keller - Committee Vice-Chair
    Democrat - Jefferson County
    Phone 303-866-4856

    Senator Greg Brophy
    Republican - Cheyenne, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan,
    Phillips, Prowers, Sedgwick, Washington, Yuma
    Phone 303-866-6360

    Senator Peter Groff
    Democrat - Adams, Denver
    Phone 303-866-4864

    Senator Ted Harvey
    Republican - Douglas
    Phone 303-866-4881

    Senator Steve Johnson
    Republican - Larimer

    Senator Mike Kopp
    Republican - Jefferson
    Phone 303-866-4859

    Senator Stephanie Takis
    Democrat - Adams
    Phone 303-866-4855

    Senator Jennifer Veiga
    Democrat - Adams, Denver
    Phone 303-866-4861

    Senator Sue Windels
    Democrat - Jefferson
    Phone 303-866-4840

    We need your help, your voice makes all the difference

    Texas Leg Approves Needle Exchange

    Grits for Breakfast points to some of the legislation that is happening in Texas from the Republicans who are passing comprehensive and meaningful reform, this time it's allowing local governments to decide for themselves to have needle exchange programs. Harm reduction strategies are imperative in the fight to stop HIV and Hep C.

    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Crack Sentences to be Reduced

    WASHINGTON, D.C.: For the first time in 12 years, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has approved guideline changes to federal crack cocaine penalties tonight by a 6-1 vote. The amendment affects approximately 78 percent of defendants convicted of crack cocaine offenses, reducing their sentences by an average of 16 months. It will now be sent to Congress on May 1, 2007, along with other proposed sentencing amendments.

    "While this incremental change is a far cry from the 'equalization' of crack and powder cocaine the Commission recommended in 1995, it is a long overdue first step to improving crack sentences," said Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a national, nonpartisan sentencing reform organization.

    For 15 years the Commission has researched crack cocaine and its penalties and concluded current federal crack sentences are unjustifiable. Among the findings from its 2002 report to Congress, "Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy," are that crack penalties

    1. exaggerate the relative harmfulness of crack cocaine
    2. sweep too broadly and apply most often to lower level offenders
    3. overstate the seriousness of most crack cocaine offenses and fail to provide adequate proportionality
    4. and mostly impact minorities

    Prison Bill Gutted in California

    The reforms that would have helped to curb recidivism in the California prison crisis were gutted from their prison bill, leaving only the money to build more prisons. As one lawmaker put it, "the only winner here today is the Sealy mattress company." The legislature approved 53,000 new beds but cut the parole reforms, commissions and community women's centers.

    SACRAMENTO — The Legislature on Thursday passed a sweeping spending package to ease overcrowding in California prisons but did not tackle several problems that experts say are driving the long-running crisis.

    While lawmakers celebrated their vote to add 53,000 beds to the state corrections system and boost rehabilitation for inmates, critics beyond the Capitol worried that other ideas left out of the $7.4-billion deal might be sidelined for good.

    For example, the package excluded any effort to deal with the state's discredited parole system. Also omitted was a commission to review California's Byzantine sentencing laws.

    A third proposal that has drawn particularly high marks from criminologists — to move 4,500 nonviolent female offenders out of prison to correctional centers near their homes — was missing from the agreement as well.

    Prison Staffing Tops Concerns

    Under-staffing concerns, medical shortages, rising assault numbers and perceived lack of concern on the part of the Bureau continue to anger union reps who say issues are not being addressed, leaving the safety of officers and inmates in danger at federal institutions where some of the most hardened criminals are being housed.

    Staff shortages are the biggest concern for prison workers, who say lack of employees can contribute to a dangerous malaise on the part of inmates.

    “The poorer of care you provide inmates, the greater risk of problems,” said Dave Schiefelbein, a medical staff member at Florence ADX. “When inmates reach the end of their rope, they riot.”

    Tuesday’s gathering was part of a week-long caucus for 100 Council of Prison Locals officials and representatives from the American Federation of Government Employees North Central Region; the AFGE is the nation’s largest union for federal workers, which represents Bureau correctional officers across the country.

    Canon Daily Record

    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    HB 1313 - The Identity Bill

    The Identity Bill, HB 1313 was signed by the Speaker of the House and is now headed for the Governor's desk.

    No Private Money for Gang Unit

    We've been following a story about an unnamed "foundation" who wanted to give the city money to help in gang prosecutions. We believe that money could be spent better elsewhere. There are plenty of non-profit programs working to avert kids from getting involved that could really use the support. Apparently those foundations have seen that as well.

    Mayor John Hickenlooper's administration has decided not pursue private donations to fund a gang task force in the Denver District Attorney's Office because of concern among City Council members

    Hickenlooper's Chief of Staff Kelly Brough wrote City Council Wednesday saying "the foundations that had initially expressed interest in the district attorney's effort are now focusing with us on other opportunities to make a positive impact."

    Last month council members balked at the idea of partially funding a special gang program with private donors over concern about the possibility of "selective prosecution."

    Hickenlooper has refused to name the potential donors.

    Brough's memo said "While we're confident that foundation support of the District Attorney's gang-related efforts would not have created any conflicts of interest for law enforcement officials, we very much understand the concern and appreciate the attention that members of City Council have given this issue."The Denver Post

    One Year Out - Urban Institute Report

    What do we know about people being released? What are their struggles and why do so many go back? The Urban Institute released this report after a three year study of people in Ohio who had been released from prison.

    WASHINGTON, D.C., April 18, 2007 -- The final report in an Urban Institute research series on men leaving Ohio prisons details the first year of their release, offering an overview of their postprison lives and a slate of policy options that could smooth reentry.

    "One Year Out: Experiences of Prisoners Returning to Cleveland (pdf)," by Christy A. Visher and Shannon M.E. Courtney, affords a first-hand look at the challenges of prisoner reentry through interviews with nearly 300 former prisoners who returned to the Cleveland area.

    Among the policy recommendations for ex-prisoners:
    -- Services that enable former prisoners to secure positive and stable housing immediately after release.
    -- Substantial assistance in finding and maintaining both employment and substance abuse treatment.
    -- Programs that involve families in prisoners' reintegration.
    -- Partner visitation during incarceration and marriage support services after release.

    "The study's findings point to important policy opportunities for change—both in prison and in the community—that would reduce recidivism, reduce illegal drug use, and increase public safety in Cleveland's neighborhoods," said Visher."Many of these policy changes are not expensive."


    Parents, Kids and Pot

    What do pot smokin' parents tell their kids? Here's a thought provoking article about how that conversation has changed over the years and what it is evolving into now.

    Marsha Rosenbaum holds a doctorate in medical sociology from UC San Francisco and has researched drug issues for 20 years. Wherever the director of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance holds workshops about teens and drugs -- Salt Lake City, Arizona, even at a national PTA convention in Columbus, Ohio -- at least one parent sheepishly asks Rosenbaum a version of the same question:

    "I smoke pot once in a while. I have a good job, my marriage is strong and I'm in decent shape. It's never been a problem for me. So what do I tell my kid if I think they're smoking?"

    Or worse, what do I say if they find my stash?

    These parents aren't stoners, said Rosenbaum. They're not medicinal marijuana users or legalization advocates, either. They're lawyers. Land developers. Teachers. Homeroom mothers. They smoke marijuana occasionally -- socially, "like a glass of wine" is a common comparison.

    Yet privately, these parents are asking for help with a dilemma that isn't addressed publicly in many places: How do I talk to my kids about their pot smoking when I still do it -- and don't have any intention of stopping? They're finding there aren't a lot of places to go for information, especially for those who don't want to feed their children a reheated version of the federal government's "Just Say No" anti-drug campaigns of the 1980s.SanFran Gate

    The Chains Of Love

    h/t to Mike at Corrections Sentencing for the link to this article about the thousands of people out there who are married to people in prison. The article outlines the struggles that they face and the difficulties of being in a long distance relationship. Marriage and family are one of the best detractors for people coming out to stay out and successfully reintegrate. Some states are coming up with innovative ways to allow these relationships to, if not flourish, at least maintain some semblance of stability.

    "The wives of inmates are still largely without resources or institutional assistance, grappling with exorbitant phone rates, long distances to be travelled for visits, hypervigilant visitation rules, and restricted access to information about their husbands’ well-being.”

    Good Magazine

    Raising the Felony Threshold

    The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would increase the threshold for making a variety of crimes felonies, a measure aimed a saving the state prison system millions of dollars.

    For example, the bill would increase from $500 to $1,000 the value of items required for a felony charge of theft.

    A charge of aggravated vehicle theft would require the auto involved to be worth at least $20,000, up from the current $15,000.

    The bill was introduced by members of the Joint Budget Committee in an effort to reduce the number of inmates in state prisons.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    House Bill 1107 - The Record Sealing Bill Passes

    The Senate Judiciary passed HB 1107 unanimously today after listening to compelling testimony from several different witnesses who explained how their lives would be changed for the better with the passage of the record sealing bill. We would like to thank everyone who testified and those who submitted testimony but couldn't be there. We would also like to thank Maureen Cain from the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar for her tireless efforts and Senator Bob Bacon and Representative Mike Cerbo for carrying this bill.

    HB 1107 goes on to Senate Appropriations next. We will keep you updated.

    Drug War Failures

    Seven years ago, the U.S. government launched a $4.7 billion anti-drug effort in Colombia, which provides more than 90 percent of cocaine that enters the United States. The program's pride and joy is an aggressive aerial spraying campaign to destroy coca, the raw ingredient in cocaine that ends up on American streets. Just three days before I arrived, U.S.-funded airplanes had dumped chemicals on La Balsa's crops, and, in some areas, even on the village structures themselves.
    Article here

    New Protein May Stop Hep C

    Michael over at Corrections Sentencing had a great post yesterday, chock full of good stuff to read. One notable mention was that researchers have discovered a protein that may stop Hep C from replicating. That's wonderful news when you look at the explosive growth of that disease in our prison populations. 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.Here's the article

    The Cost of Private Prisons

    Colorado currently has 480 people who have been transferred to Oklahoma in a move to reduce overcrowding in our prisons. The issue is explosive as Oklahoma may be preparing to take on people from other states as well. The riot at Crowley should have taught us this lesson of the danger of importing human beings like commodities. We have heard from prisoners and their families that the stress level is already high there.

    With GEO and Cornell both hovering over the state in a an effort to build private prisons here, we have to assess the necessity for new prisons when efforts to reduce the recidivism rate would give us a much better rate of return. Building re-entry centers closer to communities where people live and work would allow us to address the issues that have simply been ignored, overlooked, or underfunded. We need to be creative and willing to work harder to re-integrate people back into their lives or else we will never get out of the spiral of recidivism.

    Indiana Riot: The Cost of Importing People

    signed an agreement last month to house Arizona prisoners at the privately managed prison in New Castle. The first 104 prisoners arrived March 12; 1,200 were expected altogether. About 600 have arrived so far.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Riot At GEO Private Prison in Indiana

    The Geo Group is currently trying to build a 1500 bed prison in Ault, Colorado. CCJRC has joined with Rep. Buffy McFadyen and Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government in a call to rescind that contract.

    NEW CASTLE, Ind. (AP) -- Inmates staged a two-hour riot at a medium-security men's prison Tuesday, injuring two staff members and setting fires in a courtyard.

    Indiana Department of Correction spokeswoman Java Ahmed said more than one cell house was involved in the disturbance at the New Castle Correctional Facility, about 43 miles east of Indianapolis.

    Corrections officials sent emergency squads and county and state police to the prison. New Castle Mayor Tom Nipp said the entire city police force was also activated.

    Helicopter pictures showed officers in riot gear standing outside the prison fence and at least two fires burning in the courtyard.

    Authorities later secured the prison perimeter and confirmed that no inmates escaped, although some were still out of their cells, Indiana State Police Sgt. Rod Russell said.

    Authorities had also accounted for all staff members.

    The prison is managed by the GEO Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla., according to the Indiana Department of Corrections Web site.

    The prison, built in 2002, can house about 2,200 inmates. It currently has about 1,000 prisoners from Indiana and 630 from Arizona.

    Rocky Mountain News

    Texas Corrections Officers Say "NO" To New Prisons

    Grits for Breakfast has this from Texas CO's who say no more new prisons, just adequately staff the ones that we have. It's a problem that needs to be addressed here as with the private prison they are trying to build in Hudson. The turnover rate in Brush at the women's facility there is at over 40 percent and Corrections Corporations of America has already been fined for understaffing at their facilities here in Colorado.

    Juvenile Detention Guard Gets Sentenced

    It's not just happening in Texas...

    A former security guard at a juvenile detention center was sentenced to three years in prison Monday for sexual assault on a child and unlawful sex in a penal institution.

    Heather Robbins, 30, had a sexual relationship with a 16- year-old boy who was serving time at the center.

    Robbins pleaded guilty on Jan. 29. After prison, she will face between 10 years and a lifetime of intensive supervised probation.

    Rocky Mountain News

    Death Penalty Sentence Unconstitutional

    A death sentence against an inmate who killed a prison employee is not valid because a jury didn't decide his fate, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled.

    The state's high court did, however, uphold the first-degree murder conviction of Edward Montour Jr. for the October 2002 bludgeoning death of Eric Autobee, a 23-year-old kitchen supervisor at the Limon Correctional Facility.

    Montour pleaded guilty to the death of Autobee, and in doing so "automatically waived his right to have a jury determine his sentence" under the state's death penalty statute, the Supreme Court said in a ruling posted Monday.

    "We hold that the statute unconstitutionally links the waiver of a defendant's jury-sentencing right to his guilty plea," the opinion states.

    "Colorado law was found by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional," said attorney David Lane, who was a member of a team that represented Montour. "If you enter a plea of guilty, as Montour did, you waive the right to have a jury find your fate, and that is unconstitutional

    Denver Post

    Talk Left points us to a study that was done that shows that lethal injection may not be the painless death we have been led to believe that it was. The commentary following the post is especially good.

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Action Alert - Record Sealing Bill and Parolee Voting

    HB 1107 (The Record Sealing Bill)
    Call or Email Senate Judiciary Committee Members
    Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Wednesday April 25
    1:30 P.M. Senate Committee Room 352

    Last week, the Record Sealing Bill (HB-1107) was strongly passed out of the
    House on a 46-18-1 vote!! Voting in favor were 37 Democrats and 9 Republicans.
    HB 1107 is sponsored by Senator Bob Bacon in the Senate and has been scheduled
    for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee for 1:30pm on Wednesday, April 25th.

    Here’s what you can do to help.

    1. Please contact the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and urge their support of HB 1107.
    2. If you would like to testify in support of HB 1107, please contact Christie at CCJRC.
    There was incredibly powerful testimony before the House Judiciary Committee,
    particularly by those who had criminal records from a while ago and spoke to
    how difficult it has been to find employment and housing. Many Representatives commented on how influential this testimony was on their decision to vote in favor.

    It is time for the final push on this bill to get through the Senate! Let’s keep the powerful momentum going.

    WHAT THE BILL DOES -- Colorado law does not allow a person with a criminal conviction
    to seal their record – regardless of the nature of the criminal conviction, the length of time since the conviction, or evidence of rehabilitation. Even after people have completed their sentence
    and been law abiding for years or even decades, they are forever stigmatized by having a criminal record. Even minor offenses, committed many years ago, can prevent someone from
    obtaining housing and meaningful employment or advancement in their career field.

    The possibility of being able to seal a criminal record is a strong and real incentive for a person to turn his/her life around. HB 1107 would allow people convicted of select crimes to petition the Court to seal a criminal record after they completed their sentence and been offense free for 10 years.

    · Convictions for some crimes would not be eligible to be sealed including:

    Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses or class A or B traffic infractions, DUI/DWAI,
    sexual offenses, domestic violence, offense involving a pregnant women or convictions
    for crimes involve aggravating circumstances, high risk, or special offender sentencing enhancements. The Court does not have to order the sealing. The Court is required to balance
    the privacy rights of the petitioner against the public’s right to know on a case by case basis.
    For offenses committed before July 1, 2007, the District Attorney will have
    to agree before the Court can order the record sealed. Law enforcement will always have access to any sealed record. The petitioner must have paid all of the fines, fees, costs and restitution ordered in the criminal case. The petitioner will also pay a filing fee that is sufficient to cover the cost of the proceeding.

    We need your help, your voice makes all the difference!

    Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee --

    Senator Bob Bacon (Sponsor)
    Democrat /Larimer
    Cap: 303-866-4841
    E-mail: bob.bacon.senate@state.co.us

    Senator Betty Boyd
    Jefferson County/Democrat
    Cap: 303-866-4857
    E-mail: betty.boyd.senate@state.co.us

    Senator Shawn Mitchell
    Cap: 303-866-4876
    E-mail: shawn.mitchell.senate@state.co.us

    Senator John Morse (Vice Chairman)
    El Paso/Democrat
    Cap: 303-866-6364
    E-mail: john.morse.senate@state.co.us

    Senator Scott Renfroe
    Cap: 303-866-4451
    E-mail: scott.renfroe.senate@state.co.us

    Senator Brandon Shaffer (Chairman)
    Cap: 303-866-5291
    E-mail: Brandon@brandonshaffer.com

    Senator Steve Ward
    Republican/Arapahoe, Jefferson
    303-866- 4846

    SB 83 Update (Election Reform, including parolee voting)

    Last week, SB 83 was heard in the House State, Veterans,
    and Military Affairs Committee. The bill was laid over for a vote for
    Tuesday (4/24) at 1:30pm in the House Committee Room 0112.
    Please contact the committee members listed below.

    The Committee will not be taking any more public testimony.

    Committee Chair: Representative Paul Weissmann (SB 83 House Sponsor)

    Committee Vice-Chair: Representative Nancy Todd

    Rep. Bill Cadman
    Republican/El Paso

    Rep. Terrance Carroll

    Rep. Edward Casso,
    303-866-2964 (no email)

    Rep. Rafael Gallegos

    Rep. Cheri Jahn

    Rep. Jeanne Labuda

    Rep. Kent Lambert
    Republican/El Paso

    Rep. Larry Liston
    Republican/El Paso

    Rep. Kevin Lundberg

    HB 1313 (the Identity Bill) has made it through the Capitol and is on the Governor's desk!!

    US Sentencing Guidelines - Compassionate Release

    h/t to Doug Berman over at Sentencing for pointing us to this possible change in guidelines that judges can use when considering early release.

    On April 18, the United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to approve a new policy statement to instruct judges considering whether to reduce a prisoner's sentence for extraordinary and compelling reasons, also sometimes know as "compassionate release" motions. This proposed guideline amendment would substantially expand the grounds for reduction of sentence under 18 USC § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i).

    The proposed guideline amendment is a victory for advocates. For a number of years, FAMM and other organizations have urged the United States Sentencing Commission to adopt a policy statement on “compassionate release” motions that recognizes conditions other than the disabling illness or imminent death of the prisoner.

    FAMM article

    NY Times Editorial- Prison Horrors for the Mentally Ill

    The State of New York took a step toward basic human decency when it agreed to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of mentally ill prisoners, who often endure horrific neglect and mistreatment. The settlement, which must be approved by the courts, provides for a range of welcome changes, including better care and monitoring for the severely ill people being held in solitary confinement or disciplinary lockdown, typically for 23 hours a day.

    It still falls far short of what’s needed and is not a substitute for the sweeping reforms vetoed by former Gov. George Pataki last year. The Legislature should pass that bill again and Gov. Eliot Spitzer should promptly sign it. Maltreatment of mentally ill prisoners is a national shame. People who suffer from delusions and hallucinations are far more likely than non-disabled prisoners to break rules. When they are confined in their cells, their symptoms worsen. All too often they harm themselves.

    A 2003 study found that nearly a quarter of the inmates in lockdown were mentally ill. Of those, nearly 45 percent reported that they had tried suicide and nearly a third reported self-mutilation. The settlement provides slightly better treatment and better suicide prevention in lockdown. But the basic problem is that severely ill inmates should not be held in lockdown at all.


    Hudson Braces For Prison Battle

    Laura Moreland and Phil Tidwell have worked tirelessly to bring the truth to light amid the propaganda that private prisons put out to residents of small towns. Cornell is touting the need for a 1,250 bed women's prison that we simply don't need. We don't have the growth to support that kind of prison which means that Cornell will be importing prisoners from other states to fill those beds.

    Hudson - Hope for this small prairie town may lie in a proposed women's prison, supporters say.

    But other residents say a prison could ruin the town.

    A 1,250-bed facility could bring in enough jobs and revenue so Hudson could pave its streets, hire its own police force and become a growing hub like its neighbors.

    But some say a prison doesn't mean progress. They have launched an anti-prison campaign like the successful one in Ault - another struggling Weld County town. There a private prison was touted as an antidote for a dreary economy but was attacked as a blight on the community.

    "I can't imagine a worse image for Hudson right now," said Laura Moreland, who started Citizens Against the Hudson Prison. "I don't see people saying 'Let's move to Hudson with its truck stop and prison and build a home."'

    Moreland wants Hudson's 500 or so registered voters to say "no" to the Cornell Companies Inc. prison on May 8. That's when they will be asked to rezone 320 acres of mostly scrub brush just northwest of I-76.

    If the rezoning is approved, the town will annex the land and the prison will be built on about 40 acres, say town officials.

    Mayor Neal Pontius said he's happy to let the voters decide something so controversial.

    Moreland - who lives in nearby Fort Lupton - said the prison will reflect badly on not only the town but on nearby homes and ranches. She also is attacking assertions that the prison will bring up to 147 jobs to Hudson and pump $27.5 million into the town over its first 10 years.

    She cites a Denver consultant's report - Harvey Economics - that says benefits of a prison will be overshadowed by infrastructure costs, water and utilities woes, and security risks.

    "People are saying 'Well, this will pave our streets.' But at what cost?" Moreland said. "The growth will eventually come here, so let's don't rely on a prison."

    The Houston, Texas-based Cornell was awarded the $16 million annual contract to build the Hudson prison last year by the Colorado Department of Corrections. The company runs prisons in 18 states, including a youth facility in Cañon City.

    Locating a medium-security prison in Hudson was considered ideal because it is away from a major population center but still close to the metro area, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan. Hudson is about a 25-minute drive from Denver.

    Ault was also considered a good spot for a 1,500-inmate men's prison to be built by GEO Group Inc. last year. But those plans have since stalled, due in part to questions over whether a prison official worked improperly with GEO to win the Ault contract.

    "The bottom line was that only some town board members and a few businesses wanted the prison," said Ault resident Phil Tidwell, who led the anti-prison push.

    Denver Post

    Sunday, April 22, 2007

    Oregon To Spend More on Prisons Than Higher Ed

    Sound familiar? The budget in Oregon for prisons will be over a billion dollars in the next five years which will decimate their higher-ed budget. The trend is desperately similar to the landscape in Colorado. The Governor's plan to reduce recidivism is a good start but it is a package deal, not a silver bullet. There has to be a change in the culture in how we think about what returning to a community looks like for people getting out of prison.

    Giving people on parole the opportunity to vote or having their records sealed after years of demonstrating a crime-free, productive life are just parts of the package that will have a longer term effect. It took us a long time to get to the situation we are in and it's not going to fixed overnight. There has to be a commitment by policymakers to create solutions that are based on facts and data and they must be willing to give those solutions a chance to get a foothold and create real change.

    Oregon is on the verge of a milestone: In the next two years, the state will spend tens of millions more tax money to lock up prison inmates than it does to educate students at community colleges and state universities.

    The trend results from more than a decade of explosive prison growth largely fueled by Measure 11, the 1994 ballot initiative that mandated lengthy sentences for violent crimes. Since then, the number of inmates has nearly doubled and spending on prisons has nearly tripled.Oregon News.

    Spitzer vs. Schwarzenegger

    It's the battle of the coasts in regards to prison growth snd the future and NY Governor Eliot Spitzer seems to be the one that will come out ahead. Doug Berman posts this thougtful compilation of what's going on between California and New York over at Sentencing Law and Policy (thanks for the tip Corrections Sentencing)

    Here's Doug:

    Despite his action hero movie persona, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to play the role of villain in various sentencing reform stories: e.g., authorizing (and then halting) work on a secret death chamber; persistently failing to deal with severe prison problems; undermining efforts to reform the state's extreme three-strikes law. Meanwhile, on the other coast, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is showing how easy it can be for a motivate chief executive to move forward on sentencing reform.

    As detailed in this press release, yesterday Spitzer announced several appointments to the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform. Spitzer on his own initiative created this Commission last month through Executive Order 10, which calls upon the Commission to "conduct a comprehensive review of New York’s current sentencing structure, sentencing practices, community supervision, and the use of alternatives to incarceration." And not one to waste any time, Spitzer's executive order creates an ambitious agenda and a tight timeline for this Commission's work:

    Rocky Editorial - Don't Banish Sex Offenders

    Aurora may join Greenwood Village and become the second Colorado city that prohibits certain registered sex offenders from living near places children frequent.

    In Aurora's case, the ordinance would target violent offenders and those who have attacked children. The forbidden zone would be anywhere within the city limits that's 1,000 feet or closer to a school or recreation center.

    The Lyons town board wisely rejected a similar measure not long ago. We hope the Aurora ordinance, which is scheduled to be heard by the city's public safety committee Tuesday, suffers a similar fate.

    Any attempt to banish former sex offenders from large portions of a city or town is counterproductive and would probably drive them underground, where they'll be even more of a threat. Such measures are also quite possibly unconstitutional.

    The public is concerned that the corrections system is releasing potentially violent predators into the community with scant supervision. The reality is more complicated. Colorado has supervision guidelines in place to monitor sex offenders who have completed their sentences and are on parole. These regulations go far beyond the requirement to register with local law enforcement every time they move. Rocky Mountain News

    SPEAKOUT -- SB 83 Parolee Voting

    The Rocky Mountain News printed this column from Cathy Hazouri, Executive Director of the ACLU on the benefits of SB 83.

    By Cathy Hazouri, Colorado American Civil Liberties Union

    The legislature is considering Senate Bill 83, an election reform bill that includes an amendment to extend voting rights for parolees. Parolee voting isn't about making things easier or better for criminals. It is about preventing crime.

    The natural reaction of most law-abiding citizens is to automatically reject the idea of parolee voting. We want those people to pay dearly for the crimes they have committed, and denying voting rights to parolees sounds just fine to many of us. But does our lust for retribution outweigh our interest in cultivating civic and social responsibility - known factors for preventing crime - among prisoners returning to society?

    At some point, when prisoners have served their time, they are going to return to society and live among us in the community. So we must decide how best to reintegrate people with criminal convictions so that they become productive citizens who actively reject a life of crime. Our public safety depends on it.Speakout

    Prison Life a Jolt For Nacchio?

    Joe Nacchio, once accustomed to a seven-figure salary and multimillion-dollar bonuses, could soon be earning 12 to 40 cents an hour doing menial labor as a federal prison inmate.

    It's a dramatic fall for the former Qwest chief executive, who was found guilty Thursday of 19 counts of criminal insider trading. Each count could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

    In prison, Nacchio, who earned an annual salary of $1.17 million from Qwest, could expect to work seven hours a day as a food server, plumber, painter, warehouse worker or groundskeeper, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He could use his new salary to buy items from the prison commissary or to pay his phone bill.

    The Denver Post

    Saturday, April 21, 2007

    Thousands Show Up in Boulder for 4/20

    BOULDER - University of Colorado officials were kinder and gentler to hundreds of marijuana activists and their supporters who gathered for a pro-pot rally Friday on campus.

    No, the cops didn't hand out brownies or other munchies to stoned students this year. But, the handful of officers who stayed on perimeter of Friday's large turnout also didn't undertake a hard-core crackdown, either.

    CU police Cmdr. Brad Wiesley said his officers issued about a "half-dozen" tickets to revelers for either possessing less than an ounce of marijuana or smoking pot in public.

    Most of the tickets were written before the traditional 4:20 p.m. lighting up, he said. The maximum penalty for the petty offenses is a $100 fine.Rocky Mountain News

    UK - Private Prisons, Drugs, Bribery

    The private prison industry isn't just corrupt here in the states, here's an expose from a reporter who went undercover as a guard in a private prison in Britain. Recently, in Virginia, the private prison run by the GEO Corporation was exposed for the same thing.

    A prison officer in fear for her life, prisoners with mobile phones, officers on the take - an undercover prison officer blows the whistle on a privately run jail. In a Guardian Films co-production with BBC One's Panorama, a reporter spent five months undercover at HMP Rye Hill in Warwickshire – a Category B jail holding 600 inmates.

    Rye Hill is run by GSL (formerly Group 4). Not one new prison built in the last ten years is state run and half the 8000 new prison places promised by the Government will be privately run. But can the private sector really do the job?

    To find out, an undercover recruit joined Rye Hill as a trainee and after 13 weeks qualified top of his class. Once on the wings, the undercover recruit saw a prison officer he trained with being openly threatened by inmates for enforcing the rules too rigidly. The escalating intimidation – with one warning sent by a prisoner using a senior prison officer as go-between – put the officer in genuine fear for her life.

    Article Here

    TIME --- Was Timothy Leary Right?

    Psychedelics are making a resurgence within the Mental Health Community with a different guru this time.

    Are psychedelics good for you? It's such a hippie relic of a question that it's almost embarrassing to ask. But a quiet psychedelic renaissance is beginning at the highest levels of American science, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Harvard, which is conducting what is thought to be its first research into therapeutic uses of psychedelics (in this case, Ecstasy) since the university fired Timothy Leary in 1963. But should we be prying open the doors of perception again? Wasn't the whole thing a disaster the first time?

    The answer to both questions is yes. The study of psychedelics in the '50s and '60s eventually devolved into the drug free-for-all of the '70s. But the new research is careful and promising. Last year two top journals, the Archives of General Psychiatry and the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, published papers showing clear benefits from the use of psychedelics to treat mental illness.
    Time Magazine

    SB 83 Parolee Voting

    Contact committee members now to help push this bill through. The committee will hear additional testimony on Tuesday. Your comments make a difference.
    Bill has been assigned to the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.

    Hearing will be scheduled for a Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

    Short Name: State, Veterans, & Military Affairs
    Chamber: House
    Staffing Agency: LCS
    Workgroup: Committee Staff Members
    Staff Member: Bo Pogue
    Default Meeting Room: HCR 0112
    Select Committee Members:

    Committee Chair: Representative Paul Weissmann, D Boulder

    Committee Vice-Chair: Representative Nancy Todd, D Arapahoe

    Members: Rep. Bill Cadman, R
    El Paso

    Rep. Terrance Carroll, D

    Rep. Edward Casso, D

    Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D

    Rep. Cheri Jahn, D

    Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D

    Rep. Kent Lambert, R
    El Paso

    Rep. Larry Liston, R
    El Paso

    Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R

    HB 1107- Record Sealing Bill

    HB 1107 Passed through the House with a very impressive 46 -18-1 vote. We are now on our way to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Please contact members of the Senate Judiciary and let them know how important this bill to helping people get on with their lives. A felony conviction should not be a life sentence.

    HB 1369 - Medical Care For The Recently Released

    In 2003, the legislature passed a bill that required case managers to help people get medical help when they are released. The audit that was done late last year came back with the shocking results that only one facility out of 30 was following that dictate. That bill was reintroduced in the House Judiciary yesterday. We can only hope that Director Zavaras will hold his people accountable and that they and the county social services departments can work together to make this a reality.

    The department of health care policy and financing shall
    provide information and training on medical assistance eligibility
    requirements and assistance to each correctional facility to assist in and
    expedite the application process for medical assistance for any inmate
    held in custody who meets the requirements of paragraph (a) of
    subsection (1) of this section.

    (3) On or before January 1, 2003, The department of human
    services shall provide information and education regarding the
    supplemental security income systems and processes to each correctional

    (4) (b) On or before January 1, 2003, The department of health
    care policy and financing shall promulgate rules to simplify the
    processing of applications for medical assistance pursuant to paragraph
    (a) of subsection (1) of this section and to allow inmates determined to be
    eligible for such medical assistance to access the medical assistance upon
    release and thereafter. If a county department of social services
    determines that an inmate is eligible for medical assistance, the county
    shall enroll the inmate in medicaid effective upon release of the inmate.
    At the time of the inmate's release, the correctional facility shall give the
    inmate information and paperwork necessary for the inmate to access
    medical assistance. Such information shall be provided by the applicable
    county department of social services.

    Volunteers Helping the Mentally Ill In Jail

    A group of volunteer therapists are tackling the issue of people who are incarcerated and also have a mental illness.

    SUMMIT COUNTY - Every other Wednesday afternoon, Storm Johnson and Susan Toys set up a circle of plastic chairs in the Summit County Jail's indoor recreation room amid the ping-pong table, a small television and a few tightly packed bookshelves.

    A group of male inmates, typically anywhere from 18 to 33 years old, fill the chairs for the first hour - about 8 show up - followed by one or two female inmates for the second hour.

    "Some of them come because they really have some interest, and some come because it's a time-filler," Johnson said.

    Regardless of inmates' reasons for attending, Johnson and Toys take advantage of the time to lead an open discussion focused on issues like anger management or coping skills.

    On Fridays, the women return to the jail to meet one-on-one with inmates who request a more personalized therapy session, and whose requests are approved by the jail captain.
    Summit County

    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Hundreds Rally In Support Of Pot

    More than 700 people gathered in Denver's Civic Center Park today as part of the national "4/20" rally to protest laws against marijuana. The Denver Post Video

    The Denver event held on April 20, or 4/20, at 4:20 p.m. drew high school and college students and others, mostly in their 20s.

    "It's a weed smoking festival," said Joe Smith, 18, who recently moved to Denver from Nevada. "I believe in the medicinal benefits of marijuana."

    "Everyone came together to smoke marijuana and chill," said G.K. Hoovers, 20, of Aurora. "It's been cool. There were no problems."

    The rally also drew about 100 Denver Police, including the SWAT team, the mounted patrol, undercover members of the vice and narcotics bureau, the gang unit and other departments, said police spokeswoman Virginia Quinones.

    Rocky Mountain News

    Reforming Rockefeller

    New York is working to pass legislation that would support treatment and probation instead of prison time in their state. Another key piece of this bill would give judges more discretion in sentencing.

    On Wednesday, April 18, the Drug Policy Alliance and members of Real Reform New York held a press conference and film screening to support reform of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws (RDLs) in New York. The New York State Assembly went on to pass legislation which would further reform these laws, widely considered the nation’s harshest.

    Assembly Bill 6663, introduced by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (Chair, Assembly Standing Committee on Correction), would expand drug treatment for people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, and continue sentencing reform by allowing certain people serving time for “B” felonies to apply for resentencing--a key piece missing in changes to the law made in 2004 and 2005. The bill would also increase judicial discretion and allow for some people convicted of first- and second-time drug offenses to receive treatment and probation instead of prison.Drug Policy Alliance

    Pot Slows Lung Cancer in Mice

    Would the (Drug War proponents) consider making medical marijuana legal if it cured cancer? They'd probably say it wasn't true. Just like global warming.

    The findings, presented yesterday at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Los Angeles, add to evidence that marijuana may have anti-tumor properties, researchers said. Scientists speculate THC may activate biological pathways that halt cancer cell division or block development of blood vessels that feed tumors.

    "THC can have a potential therapeutic role," said Anju Preet, the study's lead author and a researcher at Harvard University's division of experimental medicine. "Maybe THC is killing cells. The preliminary studies are promising."

    Tumor cells dosed with THC also showed a reduction in epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, which means the substance may be acting similarly to Erbitux and Vectibix, which block the protein, Preet said.
    NY Health

    Colorado Springs Tent Jail Up and Running

    IN an effort to relieve overcrowding and reinstate their work release program, Sheriff Terry Maketa has erected a tent in the parking lot.

    AP) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Some El Paso County inmates are camping out in the parking lot as sheriff's officials try to ease crowding inside the jail.

    A 12,000-square-foot canvas tent was put up in the parking Sunday. The first night, 22 inmates on work release slept on bunk beds in the tent and 38 were there Monday.

    Gas and electric lines supply heat and power. Carpet covers plywood floors inside and vending machines offer snacks. Restrooms are next door in modular buildings.

    The inmates, classified as low-level nonviolent offenders, spend the day at their jobs and return to the tent at night.

    "They only come to sleep," sheriff's spokesman Lt. Clif Northam said.

    CBS 4

    Parolee Voting Laid Over

    Testimony was heard in the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee yesterday regarding the Election Bill (Parolee Voting). There were so many people there to testify that the Chairman of the Committee decided to lay it over until next week in order to accomodate everyone who hadn't had a chance to speak. This is a great opportunity to contact Committee members and ask them to vote yes on SB 83.

    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    Record-expunging plan wins first vote in House

    Record-expunging plan wins first vote in House

    HB 1107 makes it through the first test!! Lawmakers from the House Judiciary Committee
    made several comments about the emotionally charged and moving testimonies they heard during the initial Judiciary hearing.

    The House initially approved a bill that would let convicted criminals petition to have their records sealed 10 years after the crime instead of 15.
    Rep. Mike Cerbo, D-Denver, said his bill would help people who have made "errors in judgment" move on with their lives.
    The bill would exclude certain violent crimes, sexual assault and crimes against children.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Death Penalty Bill Dies

    The bill to end the death penalty in Colorado died today. I had hoped, of course, that we had suddenly become incredibly enlightened enough to end this barbaric practice. Not yet, apparently. Our thanks go out to all the people who pushed so hard to get this bill passed.

    Maybe next time.

    Democrats helped kill a colleague's bill today that would have shifted funding from death-penalty prosecutions to paying for more cold-case murder investigations.

    On a 35-30 vote, lawmakers finished off House Bill 1094, which would have cut in half the state attorney general's four-member death-penalty prosecution team to free up $180,000 to fund a proposed cold-case unit to crack Colorado's 1,200 unsolved murders.

    Republicans defeated the bill with 10 votes from Democrats, including House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver. Rocky Mountain News

    SAME Cafe -- So ALL May Eat

    Some stories just need to be told, the people that run the SAME cafe should be given medals. I know I'm going out of my way to stop by, just to support the effort.

    On a little concrete patch of one of Denver's grittiest avenues, Hunter Dragon is back for his daily taste of a miracle. The 25-year- old musician ("I'm a troubadour") who seems equal parts beard, stocking cap, tattoos, rolled-up pants, intelligence and good vibes is finishing up his lunch at the SAME. Soon, he will pay for his meal the way about half of the clients do - by working it off with a little elbow grease and a measure of dignity.

    In Dragon's case, he will wash dishes. He may mop the floor. Doesn't matter. What does matter is, "You get this sense of self- worth here. It's like you earn your keep.

    "The whole concept of this place - that a musician like me without much money could come eat and not be looked down on - is just so cool. I was giddy when I heard about it, just blown away."

    Rocky Mountain News article

    Community Hospitals Hit Hard By Addiction/Mental Illness

    A new federal study finds that about one in four adults admitted to community hospitals have a mental-health or addiction diagnosis.

    The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report found that 7.6 million out of 32 million hospital stays by Americans ages 18 and older involved mental illness or alcohol or other drug disorders. Of these, 1.9 million had a primary diagnosis of addiction or mental illness.

    Patients dually diagnosed with addiction and mental illness accounted for about 1 million community-hospital stays.

    Medicare paid for about half the stays, while 18 percent were paid for by Medicaid. About 8 percent of patients were uninsured; the rest were covered by private insurers.

    The report also noted that about one third of all hospital stays by uninsured patients involved addiction or mental-health problems.

    Join Together Article

    Prisons Come Out On Top In State Budget

    Governor Ritter's Recidivism Reduction Package was able to get most of the $8 million dollars he asked for.

    Prisoner rehabilitation - The most significant change Ritter made to the budget submitted by his GOP predecessor was a jolt of funding for "recidivism reduction."

    Ritter got most of his requested $8 million for drug-and-alcohol-treatment programs, mental-health treatment, probation and parole services. That money is supposed to decrease costs in the long run by reducing the number of returning inmates. The Department of Corrections predicts it would save about $3 million next year and more later.Denver Post

    Jeffco Wants More Money To Expand Jail

    Jefferson County is looking to expand their relatively newly expanded jail citing that bookings have gone up. We can't build our way out of this problem and other options need to be looked at first.

    Golden - Just six years after a $26 million jail expansion, Jefferson County officials are looking at increasing capacity again in a few years.

    The intent was to have the current 1,326-bed jail meet inmate and staffing needs until 2010, "and we're not too far off from that," said Cmdr. Dave Walcher, who oversees detention services.

    Bookings and average lengths of stay - which drive how many jail beds are needed - have been steadily rising, Walcher told county commissioners Tuesday as sheriff's officials presented the 2025 jail master plan.

    Bookings have increased 4.5 percent a year in the past five years to nearly 25,000 last year, and the average length of stay has jumped from 14 days in 1999 to 22 days in 2006, leading to a 12 percent increase in the average daily jail population.

    "We cannot continue that growth, but we have to plan for it," Walcher said.

    While increasing the number of jail beds is most important, Walcher said, "We're at our capacity in a lot of areas," including evidence, lab and records space.

    The heating and cooling plant dates to when the jail opened on the Golden campus in 1986 and is near the end of its lifespan.

    The master plan calls for boosting the 394,000-square- foot jail to about 700,000 square feet to house 2,454 inmates, plus additional inmates with temporary beds. Expansion would come in two phases: the first at a cost of $53.5 million and the second, $89.7 million

    The Denver Post