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, June 30, 2007

You Do The Meth - Westword

Law enforcement breaks up drug rings and they can also breakup families. A look at how public entities work outside of each other and the damage that can follow...

Someone was at the front door. Miranda's two-year-old daughter rushed toward it, figuring that her father was home.

But then the door burst open, narrowly missing her, and the toddler saw that it wasn't Daddy after all. It was a SWAT team....Read the whole article here at Westword

Rehab Programs Can Cut Prison Costs

SACRAMENTO—Of the roughly $43,000 California spends annually to house each of its prison inmates, just 5 percent goes toward rehabilitation programs.

That will have to change—in a big way—if the state is reduce its inmate population and avoid a federal court takeover of its troubled prison system, according to a report released Friday.

New programs and policies for inmates and ex-cons could eliminate the need for as many as 48,000 prison beds, the report said. The experts who developed the study estimated that could save California taxpayers $561 million to $684 million per year—about 5 percent of the total amount proposed for next year's corrections budget.

More money spent on education, job training, drug treatment, anger management and other programs would lead to less money needed for incarceration because fewer paroled inmates would get in trouble again and return to prison, the report said.

The study was requested by state Sen. Mike Machado as a part of his oversight of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget through a Senate subcommittee. He called the recommendations, compiled by a panel of 17 national experts, "sound principles for managing our prisons."

The report comes at a time when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers are trying to avoid a federal takeover of the overcrowded prison system, which is about 70 percent over capacity.

They have approved a $7.8 billion building program that will add prison and county jail beds, as well as space for mentally ill inmates and those needing health care services.

The panelists said a significant boost in rehabilitation funding could be enough to deter draconian steps being considered by federal judges who have oversight of some prison operations. Those judges are considering steps that could lead to the early release of inmates or a capping of the prison population.

Just $2,053 of the $43,287 California spends to house an inmate is for rehabilitation or training. Such programs are crucial if inmates are to avoid a return visit, the study said.

"Half of all prisoners being released (in 2006) had sat idle during their entire prison stay," without participating in a single rehabilitation program, said Joan Petersilia, a criminology professor at the University of California, Irvine, and co-chair of the panel.

The report said the state should spend between $628 million and $652 million a year on new rehabilitation programs for inmates and parolees, expenses that would be offset by the savings from having fewer inmates in the system. In addition, the $300 million now going toward such programs could be spent more effectively, according to the experts.

California prisons also offer few incentives for inmates to improve themselves, the report said.

The panelists urged lawmakers to imitate efforts in Pennsylvania, Washington and Ohio in offering shorter sentences or minimal pay to inmates who complete rehabilitation programs.

California inmates, for example, get paid for sweeping their cellblock but earn nothing for attending classes, said panel member Joseph Lehman, who formerly headed corrections departments in Washington, Maine and Pennsylvania.

Mercury News

Number of Prisoners Continues to Climb

WASHINGTON -- During the 12 months that ended June 30, 2006, the nation’s prison and jail populations increased by 62,037 inmates (up 2.8 percent), to total 2,245,189 inmates, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported today. State and federal inmates accounted for 70 percent of the increase. At midyear 2006, two-thirds of the nation’s incarcerated population was in custody in a state or federal prison (1,479,179), and the other one-third was held in local jails (766,010).

The number of prisoners under the legal jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities — some of whom were held in local jails — increased by 42,942 prisoners (2.8 percent) during the 12 months ending June 30, 2006, to reach 1,556,518 prisoners. In absolute number and percentage change, the increase in prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction was the largest since the 12 months ending on June 30, 2000.

The growth in state prisoners was due largely to a rise in prison admissions, up 17.2 percent between 2000 and 2005. During the same period, releases from state prisons increased at a slower rate, up 15.5 percent. New court commitments totaled 421,426 during 2005, a 20.3 percent increase since 2000, and parole violators returned to prison totaled 232,229, up 14.1 percent.

Bureau Of Justice

Dems on Mandatory Minimums

Democratic Forum, the first of the All-American Presidential Forums broadcast on PBS and hosted by Tavis Smiley, addressed the issues of mandatory minimum sentencing and racial disparity in the nation's criminal justice system Thursday. Hosted at Howard University in Washington, D.C., the forum focused on crime and punishment as one of eight topics presented to the Democratic candidates. Rep. Kucinich first brought up the need to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing when asked about the disparate rate of incarceration, because "We know who's serving those mandatory minimums." Several candidates addressed the need for reform of federal crack cocaine sentencing laws, including Sen. Joseph Biden, who this week introduced the Drug Sentencing Reform & Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007 which would eliminate the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity.
Sentencing Project

Friday, June 29, 2007

United States Mayors Conference

This lifted directly from DPA's website:
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) made history last weekend by passing a resolution calling for a public health approach to the problems of substance use and abuse (PDF). The resolution was sponsored by Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City.

The resolution proclaims the war on drugs a failure, and calls for “a New Bottom Line in U.S. drug policy, a public health approach that concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own.”

In adopting the resolution, the mayors proclaimed addiction a broad public health concern and endorsed specific health-related measures. These include greater access to drug treatment such as methadone and other maintenance therapies, elimination of the federal ban on funding sterile syringe access programs, and establishment of prevention policies based on needs assessed at the local level.

The resolution also calls for using a greater percentage of drug war funding to evaluate current programs’ efficacy and accountability. Rather than measure the success of U.S. drug policy by examining drug use levels or number of people imprisoned, a New Bottom Line should be used to assess how much drug-related harm is reduced. National drug policy should focus on reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged—and funded—according to their ability to meet these goals.

Moreover, since the impact of drug policies is most acutely felt in local communities, evaluation and decision-making must occur at the local level--and federal funding must be provided to enable communities to pursue those policies that best meet the unique challenges of substance abuse.

“The mayors are clearly signaling the serious need for drug policy reform, an issue that ranks in importance among the most serious issues of the day,” said Daniel Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for DPA.

Adopted resolutions become the official policy of the USCM, which meets every year to promote the best practices and most pressing priorities of U.S. cities. Last weekend’s event was the 75th Annual USCM Meeting in Los Angeles, California.

Drug Policy Alliance

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Judges Don't Trust The Gov to Get It Right

SACRAMENTO — Two federal judges charged with forcing changes to California's troubled, overcrowded prisons expressed doubt Wednesday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would turn the system around, and indicated a willingness to move toward capping the inmate population.

Such a move could push California's correctional system — the biggest in the nation — to overhaul the way it sentences criminals or even, some say, trigger the early release of thousands of inmates.

In a federal court hearing, lawyers representing prisoners appealed Wednesday to U.S. District Judges Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento and Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to impanel a three-jurist court to impose a cap.

Schwarzenegger administration attorneys told the judges that recent progress on improving medical and mental healthcare for inmates rendered such a drastic move unnecessary.

Under a 1995 federal law, three judges must weigh a prison population cap before such a limit can be imposed. To convene such a panel, Karlton and Henderson would have to decide that other methods to reduce overcrowding have been tried for a reasonable length of time.

If a panel were convened, the three federal judges would have to determine, before they could set a number for the prison population, that overcrowding was the primary cause of inadequate care for sick and mentally ill prisoners, and that public safety would not be compromised by a population cap.

Henderson and Karlton, who have spent years handling class-action inmate lawsuits in which they've found medical and mental healthcare for prisoners so deplorable as to be unconstitutional, are expected to issue a ruling within weeks.


Teenagers, Alcohol and Pot

Great post of this Newsweek article by CORR SENT and TALKLEFT...Medical experts agree that we have more messed up kids over alcohol than we do over pot. Should we teach our kids to drink at home?

This graduation season, parents around the country will face a dilemma. Should they allow teens to drink under their supervision, or should they follow the law—knowing that their kids are likely to imbibe anyway? Many parents believe teens should learn about drinking at home. Cynthia Garcia Coll, professor of education, psychology and pediatrics at Brown University, grew up in Puerto Rico, where, she says, kids drink at family parties. "Instead, in this country, we go from saying 'No, you can't do it'," and then all at once, we say 'Yes, you can' without really giving them any guidance. It's not like age 21 is a magic time when people become responsible drinkers."

But most researchers who study teen substance abuse say that for every family like the Hedricks, there are many more where allowing alcohol causes problems. "The data is quite clear about teen drinking and it has nothing to do with being puritanical," says William Damon, director of the Stanford University Center on Adolescence. "The earlier a kid starts drinking, the more likely they are to have problems with alcohol in their life." The antidrinking message is especially critical in families with a history of alcoholism, which greatly increases the risk.

Even if they don't become alcoholics, teens who drink too much may suffer impaired memory and other learning problems, says Aaron White of Duke University Medical Center, who studies adolescent alcohol use. He says parents should think twice about offering alcohol to teens because their brains are still developing and are more susceptible to damage than adult brains. "If you're going to do that, I suggest you teach them to roll joints, too," he says, "because the science is clear that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana."

Girls should be particularly careful, says Dr. Mark Willenbring of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Women generally weigh less than men and have proportionately more fat and less lean body mass. Because blood circulates primarily to lean body mass, the alcohol is distributed to a smaller volume of tissue, which results in higher blood alcohol levels. "We're absolutely seeing more women competing in drinking games," he says. "That's a terribly dangerous thing to do," in part because they become more vulnerable to sexual assault.

Instead of offering teens a beer, parents should present their children with clear rules and expectations. Research shows that involved parents are less likely to raise kids with drinking problems. Give them strategies for avoiding trouble, like telling them to call home for a ride rather than getting into a car with someone who has been drinking. Most important, be a good role model. "Parenting is not supposed to be a popularity contest."


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Marijuana on Ballot --Lowest Law Enforcement Priority

You need 4,000 signatures to get on the ballot and Mason's got over 10,000. Once again Colorado speaks out on how we feel about the illegality of marijuana and the resources being spent on enforcing it.

Backers of an initiative that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana the "lowest law enforcement priority" in Denver plan to submit signatures today to place a proposal on the November ballot.

In 2005, Denver voters approved a measure which made adult marijuana possession legal under city ordinances. However, Denver police have continued to arrest people for marijuana possession under state law, which bans pot.

"It’s time we stop spending our city’s limited law enforcement and criminal justice resources on minor pot infractions and start spending them on serious issues like violent crime and gang activity," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for Citizens for a Safer Denver.

The group said it had gathered more than 10,500 signatures; at least 4,000 signatures of registered Denver voters are required to earn a spot on the ballot.

The ballot question would create a new city ordinance making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by adults the police department’s lowest priority.

Rocky Mountain News

Bong Hits 4 Jesus Loses in SCOTUS

WASHINGTON, June 25 — The Alaska high school student who unfurled a 14-foot banner with the odd message “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” insisted that it was a banner about nothing, a prank designed to get him and his friends on television as the Olympic torch parade went through Juneau en route to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

The school’s principal insisted, to the contrary, that the banner advocated, or at least celebrated, illegal drug use, and that the student, Joseph Frederick, should be punished for displaying it. She suspended him for 10 days.

On Monday, by a narrow margin, the Supreme Court backed the principal in a decision that showed the court deeply split over what weight to give to free speech in public schools.

Six justices voted to overturn a federal appeals court’s ruling that left the principal, Deborah Morse, liable for damages for violating Mr. Frederick’s First Amendment rights.


Rhode Island Does Away With Mandatory Minimums

A small state with big ideas...
Providence — The General Assembly has approved legislation that rolls back mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, a move that proponents hope will cut costs, ease overcrowding at the state prison and give judges more discretion in meting out punishment.

The vote, in the waning hours of the legislative session that concluded early Saturday, comes as the prison grapples with a rising inmate population and adds Rhode Island to a growing list of states where lawmakers have mulled changes to their sentencing policies.

“I'm overjoyed and thankful,” Sen. Harold Metts, the bill's primary sponsor and a religious volunteer at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, said Monday. “I thank God.”

The legislation repeals minimum sentences imposed for drug crimes and also reduces the maximum punishment an offender can receive. Under the bill, for instance, a defendant convicted of possessing more than one kilogram of heroin, or more than five kilograms of marijuana, would no longer face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“It would give the judges discretion,” Metts said. “Certainly in the late teens, early 20s, people do make mistakes. It shouldn't mean that your life is over.”

The department says the data is based on individuals who are sentenced on any drug crimes that are not possession offenses, and it doesn't reflect the drug quantity.

Even so, many inmates who initially serve brief terms behind bars ultimately end up back in prison on probation violations, said Mimi Budnick, an organizer with the advocacy group Direct Action for Rights and Equality, who believes the new approach would help with overcrowding.

“The long probation sentences are a huge part of the problem,” she said.

Critics say mandatory minimum practices are ineffective, lead to excessive prison terms and strip the nuances from sentencing decisions in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach.

“People have this idea that it's about targeting these major traffickers,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that opposes mandatory minimum sentences.

“But in reality, it's low-level people, people who have their own drug problems,” he added.

Many states have contemplated changing their sentencing structures, either by rolling back mandatory minimums or altering their sentencing guidelines, said Laura Sager, the national campaign director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

Michigan, in particular, has made dramatic reforms by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and allowing early parole eligibility for certain drug offenders, Sager said. Other states have recently mulled changes, though with varied results.

In Rhode Island, Republican Gov. Don Carcieri said last week the state must find ways to safely reduce the inmate population. He has not said whether he would sign or veto Metts' bill, although Democrats hold a veto-proof majority in both chambers.

“I haven't even seen it, so I don't want to comment,” the governor said before the vote.

Corrections Sentencing

Mike over at Corrections Sentencing has "too many to mention" great posts as he tours around the blogosphere this week. Take some time to go and see what he's found from some of the best..........Here's an excerpt...

  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy has several good posts up, including a rumination on how sentencing issues suddenly seem to be important even to People Magazine (with a really nice rip on Martha Stewart, Doug)
  • Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes catches a NY Times piece that had gotten by me on how the Duke lacrosse case was the exception that proved the rule regarding regular prosecutor misconduct.
  • Joel Jacobsen over at Judging Crimes may have the quote of the year on the US Supreme Court and its sentencing decisions: “The justices have accomplished something truly special: they've taken an area of the law that no one even thought about and turned it into something no one can understand.”
  • Grits for Breakfast has been doing good work covering a restorative justice conference, revealing many of the intricate aspects of this important concept.
Go Read More at Corrections Sentencing...

Ex-Cop Has New DVD - How To Hide Your Stash

Found a great blog "I Was The State". Pretty interesting ex-DA/turned criminal defense attorney. This is an excerpt from his blog.

Former Texas Officer Barry Cooper is marketing a DVD on how to hide drugs in your car. I love the First Amendment. It seems that fox urine can throw off drug dogs. Not that it matters, police can train a drug dog to "false alert" to give them the probable cause they need to search your car.

The former officer has soured on the drug war, especially marijuana prohibition. Cooper was a highly decorated officer who took part in more than 800 drug arrests.

"He was among the best we had," said Tom Finley, who was Cooper's supervisor on the drug task force. "I don't understand why he would turn like this."

Let me help Mr. Finley. Many people "turn" against the drug war because it is a failure. It has destroyed the 4th amendment. It has incarcerated thousands of citizens. It has given criminal drug empires billions of dollars. It has led to greatly expanded police powers and the size of government. READ MORE

Jeffco DA May Face Grievance

Jeffco DA Scott Storey may face some problems of his own after the way he handled the

Manzanares case.
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey could face a formal grievance over his handling of the prosecution of former judge and Denver City Attorney Larry Manzanares.

The state agency that regulates the conduct of Colorado lawyers confirmed it received "multiple inquiries" this week about how to file an ethical grievance against Storey.

Critics and friends of Manzanares have suggested Storey, who was a special prosecutor on the Manzanares case, was overzealous and should not have held a news conference announcing the criminal charges against Manzanares, should not have released a lengthy arrest affidavit and should not have revealed that pornography was found on the computer Manzanares was accused of stealing.

Rocky Mountain News

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NJ Mayor Redirects His Anger To The War on Drugs

It's a long article and it's in Newark, but that doesn't mean it's much different than Denver. We still don't have money for treatment and we still send people to prison for being drug addicts. It's going to take the outrage of public officials who are truly committed to real public safety to get change to happen.

NEWARK _ The BlackBerry in Mayor Cory Booker's jacket pocket signals him every time the gunfire in Newark claims another victim. It happens almost every day.

A man shot in the neck while fending off a robber on Spruce Street at dusk. Two men shot in the face during an argument on 19th Street just after midnight. A man assassinated on Clinton Avenue by a gunman who fired several shots into his chest from close range.

That BlackBerry carries grim news.

"It's frustrating," Booker says, shaking his head. "I've said this is what I'm going to hang my hat on, the safety of my residents. That's how I want to be judged. That's my mandate."

For Booker, it has been a sobering first year as mayor. When he swore his oath last summer he was the whiz kid, the fast-talking Rhodes scholar with a million strategies to make the city safe. He pinned everything on that.

Now he is staring into this abyss, and it's leaving a mark on him. He is an angrier man now. And the focus of that anger is a public policy that he believes is ruining his city and threatening his hopes to change it.

The problem, he says, is New Jersey's tough tactics in the drug war. We are heavy on jail time and unforgiving even when prisoners finish their terms. At a time when even states like Texas are changing course, we are sticking with our failed strategy.

The result is to turn thousands of young men into economic cripples and to give the crime wave in Newark a flood of fresh recruits. Booker describes it as almost an economic genocide against African-American men in his city.

And if it doesn't change, he says, he's ready to go to jail in protest, in the tradition of the civil rights movement.

"I'm going to battle on this," the mayor says. "We're going to start doing it the gentlemanly way. And then we're going to do the civil disobedience way. Because this is absurd.

"I'm talking about marches. I'm talking about sit-ins at the state capitol. I'm talking about whatever it takes."

He wants to reserve prison cells for those who do violence and divert the nonviolent drug offenders into treatment programs and halfway houses.

He wants to change the New Jersey laws that bar many ex-cons from getting a driver's license. He wants a black kid from Newark who sells marijuana to clear his record as easily as the white kid from the suburbs who buys it.

He wants to stop banning ex-cons from such a long list of jobs, including warehouse jobs at the nearby airport.

The scale of the problem is staggering: About 1,500 convicts are released from state prison to Newark each year, and 1,000 of them will likely be arrested again within three years -- mostly for drug crimes.

"The drug war is causing crime," Booker says. "It is just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark."


At his headquarters, Police Director Garry McCarthy sat behind a big wooden desk and looked over the stat sheets.

"It's really mind-boggling," he says. "I don't have an answer."

The mystery is at the heart of Booker's major failure as mayor so far: After a year in office, the city's horrifying murder rate has barely budged. And last year's 105 homicides was the highest number in more than a decade.

McCarthy is perplexed because every other crime in the city is dropping like a stone. The number of people hit by gunfire is down by 31 percent this year. Reported burglaries are down 36 percent, rapes by 18 percent and robberies by 16 percent.

McCarthy's best guess is that the drug trade is the root cause. The killings this year tend to be more ruthless, he says -- one bad guy shooting another at close range with a potent weapon.

"We're stopping the random shootings," he says. "But the targeted assassinations we have had a lot of trouble getting inside of. These guys are not trying to send a message. They're trying to hurt that other person."

McCarthy is a veteran New York City cop with a belligerent look, like he's ready for a fistfight at any moment. But he's with Booker on the need to retool the drug war.

"I don't possess the answer, but something different has to be done," he says.

Talk to any of the people on the front lines of the drug war -- the cops, the judges, the social workers -- and you hear a lot of frustration like that. These are people who see the results up close and know that the tough approach simply isn't working.

Take Barnett Hoffman, a retired judge in Middlesex County who spent years sending addicts to prison with a growing sense of futility. Hoffman started a drug treatment program in the county jail, but he says that diverts only a trickle of the addicts flooding the state prisons at an annual cost of $32,400 each.

"I don't think the public understand two things," he says. "One, how expensive it is to lock somebody up. And two, they think all drug dealers are Al Pacino, and they're not. They're a bunch of people who have made bad decisions and have become addicted to drugs."

Hoffman now chairs a state commission pushing to divert more drug offenders into treatment and to cut back on mandatory prison terms, especially the one mandating three years for drug offenses within 1,000 feet of a school.

The impact of that law is profoundly racist. In Newark, the entire city is within a drug zone except the airport. Hoffman's commission found that 96 percent of those sentenced under the school zone laws are African-American or Latino.

Dave Kerr has another up-close view on the drug war. He runs a sprawling treatment program out of a handful of brownstones in downtown Newark. Nearly every day, addicts knock on his door asking for help and he has to turn them away because his beds are filled.

"We have 423 people on the waiting list right now," he says.

That's 423 more addicts in Newark, fueling the drug trade, committing crimes and in many cases abusing or neglecting their children. Many of them will wind up in jail, which is far more costly than Kerr's treatment program.

"It's just crazy," Kerr says.


If Booker really does push this, his fight in Trenton will be as difficult to win as the fight on Newark's streets.

New Jersey may be a liberal state -- but not when it comes to the drug war. Our prison system, which costs just over $1 billion a year, is stuffed with nonviolent drug offenders. They take up about one-third of all the beds, the highest portion in the country. Our barriers to employment after prison are also among the nation's toughest.

So far, the Legislature has shown no interest in changing the tough mandatory sentences that apply in most drug cases.

In late 2005, Hoffman's commission proposed redrawing the drug zones to 200 feet of schools, rather than 1,000 feet. This came after they found almost none of those arrested in the zones was selling drugs to schoolchildren.

But even that modest move provoked a backlash. Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R-Somerset) drew up a bill to toughen the mandatory penalties.

"People are looking for more severe penalties, not lesser penalties," Biondi says.

Still, some changes are possible. Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union), the Democratic state chairman, said the Legislature is open to expanding the drug courts, which divert offenders into treatment programs, because they have proved wildly successful in reducing recidivism.

Legislators also may be willing to knock down barriers that are keeping ex-cons from getting jobs. Under current state law, ex-offenders are banned from working at airports, in government jobs and as home health aides, for example.

"If we don't do anything, they'll just wind up back in prison," Cryan says. "There's more understanding on that now."

That is exactly where Booker wants to start.

He knows it'll be tough. But when he talks about it, the political smile disappears and he wears the expression of a man preparing to smash his head into a brick wall if that's what it takes.

Lucky thing. Because that wall is sturdy. And it's way past time that someone knocked it down.


Hollywood Again..Tom Sizemore Gets 16 Months In Prison

Tom Sizemore was handed down a 16 month prison sentence for being a drug addict. He violated his probation when he was picked up on a new possession charge. He will get some credit for time served. According to reports Martin Sheen was there in support and said afterwards that he didn't believe that anyone should go to prison for being a drug addict.

Actor Tom Sizemore, who pleaded no contest to a drug possession charge last year, was sentenced Monday to 16 months in prison for violating his probation stemming from a separate drug case.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Rayvis ordered the sentence after authorities said they found methamphetamine in the actor's car May 8 in Bakersfield, a violation of his probation.

Sizemore was serving a 36-month probation sentence after pleading no contest in January 2006 to possession of methamphetamine. He faced 16 months in prison but was granted probation after tearfully confessing his drug addiction in court in February 2006.

Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, said prosecutors were asking for Sizemore's probation to be revoked so he could begin serving jail time for his previous conviction.

Sizemore was most recently arrested June 5 after arriving at the Airport Courthouse on La Cienega Boulevard for a hearing on the probation violation charge and has been in custody ever since. His detention was prompted by his arrest outside a Bakersfield hotel last month on suspicion of seven drug-related charges, including possession and use of crystal methamphetamine.

Girl Crazy - Westword

Luke Turf did this story about girls, gangs and guns in Denver a year ago and it's a good read. The follow up is that Teresa was denied her reconsideration.

Teresa Ramirez hasn’t yet mustered up the muscle to tell her 21-year-old daughter Terra that any hope of getting out of prison early is as gone as her freedom.

It’s been two years since Terra was wounded in a drive-by shooting and then found herself on the other side of the gun when she played a role in another gangland shooting four months later that left two little girls traumatized and wounded by a stray bullet fired by Terra’s friend Andy Rubio. Terra took a plea deal and is serving a ten-year sentence, she’s eligible for parole in five years. Rubio, however, is doing 180 years.

“It doesn’t make any sense when murders are getting out for less time,” Teresa Ramirez says. “I just feel like the judicial system isn’t being real fair. And I think that the reason all three of them got such a harsh penalty is because it was so publicized.”

Last week Terra’s second attempt at a sentence reconsideration was denied. Since she plead guilty to assault before receiving her sentence, appealing isn’t an option.

“There’s nothing more I can do at this point,” Teresa Ramirez said. “I haven’t had the heart to tell her yet, she’s been real depressed the past few days so I don’t know if she can sense it or what, I’ve talked to her everyday but I just can’t tell her.”

Teresa says that the prison’s library can’t quench her daughter’s intellectual thirst. For the time being, Terra’s not eligible to enroll in the system’s education classes either, which are reserved for inmates closer to their potential release dates. Whereas she once saw her daughter as soft, Teresa Ramirez now sees Terra as hard, “street hard,” essential to survival in the joint.

But once Terra gets the news that all hope is gone until her parole hearing, the hard time that she’s serving is going to get even harder. --Luke Turf


Family Will Sue Over Jail Death

The parents of Emily Rae Rice, a woman who died at the city jail, filed a civil lawsuit against Denver Health Medical Center and the city and county of Denver on Monday.

Rice, 24, was injured in a traffic collision at 6:50 a.m. on Feb. 18, 2006. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.121 percent, above the legal limit for drivers in Colorado.

Rice was taken by ambulance to Denver Health and then booked into the jail. Twenty hours later, she was found dead.

An autopsy showed she died from internal bleeding and had a lacerated liver and spleen.

"The city needs to make moves to improve the system," said Darold Killmer, the Rice family attorney. "In this case, the system failed at virtually every turn."

Two doctors, six nurses and 19 sheriff's employees are named in the lawsuit that was filed in Denver District Court alleging that Rice's constant pleas for help were ignored.

The suit says doctors and medical personnel neglected to treat her internal injuries before sending her off to be booked. It also says that once in the jail, nurses and deputies dismissed her complaints and allowed her to suffer until she died.

About 3 p.m., the suit says, Rice told a guard that she was feeling ill and she was allowed to speak to a registered nurse.

The nurse "simply looked at her records and cleared her, telling her that she was drunk and needed to 'sleep it off,"' the lawsuit says. "At this point, Ms. Rice had been in custody for over seven hours since her blood-alcohol was measured at 0.121, and thus could not have been drunk."

Moments later, Rice's eyes rolled to the back of her head and she fainted to the floor, the suit says. A deputy summoned the nurse again and the complaint says the nurse mocked her, told her to "stop being dramatic" and ordered her to stand up.

Denver Post

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rep. Roberts Named to Commission

State Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, was appointed this week to serve on the newly formed Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission. The commission, formed earlier this year under the Department of Public Safety, is charged with rehabilitating Colorado's criminal and juvenile justice system

The commission became effective earlier this month when Gov. Bill Ritter signed House Bill 07-1538, of which Roberts was a co-sponsor. It will report its findings to the governor, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the president of the Senate, and the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Roberts was named to the commission by House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker. In a prepared statement, May said, "During her time in the Legislature, Ellen has developed a reputation as one who can generate creative solutions to complex problems. I am certain that this talent, coupled with her legal background, will make her an invaluable member of this commission."

As a member of the commission, Roberts will examine data on Colorado's prison population and sentencing guidelines, and will consider alternatives to incarceration and make policy recommendations based on the findings.

"Unfortunately, the current system is no longer financially sustainable," Roberts said in the statement. "By taking a look at the facts and building consensus among the experts, I think we have a real opportunity to enact positive and lasting reforms."

The commission will consist of 26 members, including experts in criminal justice, mental health, drug abuse, victim rights, juvenile justice and other relevant disciplines. It will meet monthly during the next five years and submit an annual report of its findings with recommendations.


Treatment Instead of Incarceration in Greeley

I can't believe that they are getting this done in Greeley before we can get it done in Denver. I am thrilled that it's finally happening somewhere...

If Weld County criminal justice officials are successful, scofflaws with mental health or drug problems might soon have a place to go instead of jail.

Proponents say the county's pilot program will help inmates who might need more aid than punishment, and it will ease some of the crowding at the overpopulated jail.

Starting this month, accused criminals who meet specific criteria will be considered for the In-Custody Alternative Placement Program, called ICAPP, which involves prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation, law enforcement, North Range Behavioral Health, Island Grove Treatment Center and Avalon, which runs the Villa halfway house.

Weld District Attorney Ken Buck said he hopes the program is running in the next few weeks.

"We'll have maybe 100 folks a year that are not sitting in the jail and are getting treated," he said.

The Colorado Legislature is looking at similar options statewide, and state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, is on a legislative oversight committee that is reviewing them.

The committee oversees a panel tasked with examining treatment of inmates with mental health problems.

"There are numerous people that are in our prisons that probably don't belong there; they should be in more of a mental facility and getting help that way," Renfroe said. "And it's unfortunate -- they've showed us the different costs you have in treating someone at the different places."

In Weld, however, money won't be a problem, Buck said. Grants and redirected money have made funding the program relatively easy.

The Weld program's genesis was a combination of factors, the largest being the crowded jail. Additionally, attorneys in the DA's office and the Colorado Public Defender's Office noticed high recidivism -- re-offending -- among people with drug or mental health problems.

Officials thought if they could capture those people early and get them into treatment, they might have a better chance of rehabilitating rather than re-offending.

Then everyone had to figure out how to do it.

During the past seven months, Buck, public defender's representatives and sheriff's officials have met with North Range and Island Grove leaders to hammer out the details. On Thursday, Buck and Rick Dill, commander of the jail, told a group of Weld judges and leaders about their preliminary plans.

The program is loosely modeled on a successful one from Boulder called Partnership for Active Community Engagement, or PACE. PACE officials met with Weld officials, who adapted it for a Weld-specific clientele.

Renfroe's committee met Thursday also and heard several options for future treatment at the state level. He said he's looking forward to seeing what Weld officials came up with.

To be eligible for the program, a person must be in the jail accused of a crime that was caused by an underlying mental health or substance abuse problem. Offenders are ineligible if they are in jail for any violent crimes or have been convicted of any violent crimes in the past.

Once the person is chosen, an intake coordinator will determine his or her eligibility and assess his or her needs. A screening committee will then review the case, and each party has veto power. That way, if everyone agrees a person needs mental health treatment but North Range can't accept the person, North Range isn't forced to take the patient.

Inmates who make it through the selection process will be sent to one of several options: intensive pre-trial supervision, an adult diversion program or a sentencing alternative program.

The first option would funnel the inmates to North Range or Island Grove for residential treatment of mental health or substance abuse.

If inmates follow all guidelines, they could face less strict sentences when their criminal cases are resolved.

At Thursday's meeting, Weld District Judge Marcelo Kopcow asked Buck how that would work.

"People won't go to prison who might have otherwise because of their proven success?" he said.

That's one potential incentive, Buck said.

There is a drawback, however, said Dana Nichols, a public defender who has been helping develop the program.

"They can also prove that they can't comply," she said. "There is a downfall, from the defendant's point of view."

But, she added, success in the program could help the inmate avoid prison and future crime by treating its underlying causes. And that means one less crime, one less court process and one less jail inmate.

Greeley Tribune

Family Will Sue Over Jail Death

The family of Emily Rae Rice will sue over her death at the jail after she was mistreated by both the hospital and the people at the jail.

The family of a woman who died last year while in the care of Denver sheriff's deputies plans to announce the filing of a lawsuit against the city today.

Emily Rae Rice, 24, died in jail on Feb. 19, 2006, of internal injuries suffered in a car accident the day before.

The woman's family contends that doctors who treated her before sending her to jail, as well as jail guards and employees, are responsible for her death because they failed to provide her with appropriate medical attention.

The family and its lawyers will appear at 11 a.m. at the City and County Building to announce the lawsuit.

Doctors treated Rice at Denver Health Medical Center after the accident and then sent her to jail on suspicion of drunken driving. She died 20 hours later after complaining for hours and asking for medical attention, her family said. Her pleas were ignored, they said.

The family plans to name the city, Denver Health and Hospitals, and several doctors, nurses and jail guards in the lawsuit, according to a news release issued by the Rice family's lawyers, Darold Killmer and Mari Newman.

"Despite having reported significant pain, and despite the fact that she had just been involved in a violent car accident, no tests were run on her, and vital signs were not taken upon her discharge to the Denver Jail," the news release states.

Denver Health has declined to comment.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Georgia Prisons Toss Tainted Toothpaste

ATLANTA – The state of Georgia has pulled more than 860,000 tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste containing potentially lethal chemicals from prisons holding adult and youth inmates, and hospitals housing the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

None of the three state agencies using the 1.5-ounce tubes of the “Springfresh” brand containing diethylene glycol – a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent – are reporting illnesses resulting from its use. State purchasing officials said Friday it has been contracting with American Amenities, in Woodinville, since 2002, but were unsure how long the Chinese toothpaste has been used.

Almost 6,000 144-tube cases have been removed from use by the state Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Human Resources, said Rick Beal of the Georgia Department of Administrative Services’ state purchasing division.

Corrections, which holds more than 53,000 inmates in prisons throughout the state, had 5,877 cases, Beal said. Juvenile Justice, which holds about 2,500 minors sentenced to confinement, had 25 cases at regional youth detention centers. Department of Human Resources hospitals housing mentally ill and developmentally disabled patients in Atlanta, Columbus, Milledgeville, Rome and Savannah had about 88 cases.

Corrections spokesman Paul Czachowski said the agency collected the toothpaste June 11 after notification from the Department of Administrative Services.

“No one got sick and we are working on getting another toothpaste from the vendor,” Czachowski said via e-mail Friday.

Beal said the toothpaste has been “collected up, segregated … do not use, do not touch.” Beal said he and other agency officials have been working with the Food and Drug Administration to determine how to dispose of the toothpaste.


Michael Moore In Denver

If you ever need to get riled up go listen to Michael Moore speak. I had the opportunity today and it was phenomenal. Now if we can get him to take up the incarceration issue.....The Denver Post

DENVER – Filmmaker Michael Moore spoke at a rally on the west steps of the State Capitol Sunday evening. His visit coincides will the run-up to his new movie, "Sicko," which lashes out at the health care system in America.

"We won't even say the children, the children have a right to see a doctor when they get sick and not have to worry about paying for it," Moore said to the crowd of hundreds.

Moore suggests a single-payer health care system, which would essentially create a state-run system that would provide universal coverage. He points to Canada as a good example of such a system.

Like in "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 911," Moore uses personal stories in "Sicko" to help make his point. In fact, he uses the personal story of Donna and Larry Smith, an Aurora couple that filed for bankruptcy under the weight of medical bills.

"So we just had a series of health related crises that just kept taking us down further and further," said Donna Smith, who also spoke at the rally and introduced Moore.


Intervention For the Menally Ill

Efforts are underway to find ways to keep the mentally ill from stacking up in Denver's jails, and the reverberations could affect surrounding communities as well.

The initiatives range from hiring treatment specialists to help the mentally ill in the jails to the creation of a specialized mental health docket at Denver's courthouse.

Another effort to create crisis centers in Denver and surrounding suburbs that would intervene and stabilize the mentally ill before they commit a crime has attracted the support of Colorado's first lady Jeannie Ritter, the wife of Gov. Bill Ritter.

Nearly 17 percent of inmates at Denver's jails, or 350 people, have serious mental health problems, ranging from schizophrenia to manic depression, according to the calculations of jail officials.

"And there are others with less serious mental illnesses who are able to function in the jail and receive treatment, but in all cases, once they're released from the jail, they hit this cliff," said Bill Lovingier, Denver's director of corrections.

Three months ago, the jail hired two mental-health case managers to help address the needs of that population.

Lovingier said the new employees are supposed to help find ways to help ease the mentally ill into services once they leave the jail, in the hope they will be less likely to reoffend.

The Denver Post

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Michael Moore Here Tomorrow

Michael Moore will be in town tomorrow on the West Steps of the Capitol! It will be right after Pridefest. He's here to encourage people to go see his new movie "Sicko".

City Attorney Accused Of Laptop Theft Found Dead

Former Denver City Attorney Lawrence "Larry" Manzanares, 50, was found dead Friday afternoon, the Denver County Coroner's Office confirmed Saturday, but the coroner would not release his cause of death.Denver Police issued a brief statement on Saturday that said, "The Denver Police Department received a call yesterday June 22, 2007 at approximately 4:55 p.m. regarding a male that appeared to have been shot. Officers responded to the approximate location of Dartmouth and Colorado, Eisenhower Park under the walk bridge down in the Highline Canal area. Officers arrived and found a male later identified as Larry Manzanares at this location, an apparent victim of a suicide. No further information is available."Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper issued a statement confirming the death.Manzanares, 50, resigned his position last February following a 7NEWS investigation, headed by 7NEWS Investigator Tony Kovaleski. He had been appointed to his position by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper less than two months earlier and took office on Jan. 4.Manzanares told 7NEWS that he bought the Gateway M280 laptop from a stranger in a parking lot near City Hall. He denied stealing it.An investigation traced the laptop to his home and investigators said a large amount of pornography was erased from the laptop immediately after Manzanares was informed the laptop had been traced to his Comcast account. It had been reported stolen shortly before Manzanares said he bought it. He was never able to identify the man who he claimed sold him the laptop.

Larimer County Needs Detox

It's hard to believe that in a county as large as Larimer there is no treatment available. If people need help they have to go to Greeley in Weld County. The Larimer County jail population has been out of control for awhile and they really need to look at some realistic options because they can't afford to keep building cages.

A community partnership group is looking to the federal government for help in getting a detoxification and acute mental health facility built in Larimer County, something experts say is sorely needed.

Colorado Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar and Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave have included funding requests in the Health and Human Services appropriations bills making their way through Congress to help get the long-needed facility on its way.

"The need is growing faster than the population," said Erin Hall, community projects manager with the Health District of Northern Larimer County. Hall is also the program manager for the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Partnership of Larimer County, which made the funding requests.

Patients who need those services now go to the Island Grove Regional Treatment Center in Greeley, more than 30 miles away. The center serves people who need treatment one step below what Mountain Crest Behavioral Healthcare Center in Fort Collins provides.

Admissions to Island Grove's detox facility, which have increased by 5 percent to 10 percent a year, are expected to grow 22.5 percent over the next three years, Hall said.

The requests - $100,000 by Salazar in the Senate and $1 million by Musgrave in the House - would go toward constructing the $5 million facility, Hall said. The remaining money for construction - none has been raised so far - would be raised through public and private sources, Hall said. The facility would open in the first half of 2009, she said.

Having these resources in the community would better serve those who need treatment, said Randy Ratliff, executive director of the Larimer Center for Mental Health.

“The biggest thing is that notion that we need to make these services available near where people live, work and play,” he said. “It gives greater access to support systems and all the things needed to reinforce recovery.”

A failed ballot measure in November to expand the county’s criminal justice system through a property tax increase included $1 million to get the facility up and running.

“The need (for such a facility) has been identified in the community for more than a decade,” said Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden.

Such a facility would relieve pressure at the jail, which has become the de facto resource for mental health treatment in the county, said sheriff’s Maj. Gary Darling, who oversees the jail.

5 to 10 percent: Annual increase in admissions to the Island Grove detox facility in Greeley

> 22.5 percent: Anticipated increase in detox admissions at Island Grove over the next three years

> 9 percent: Anticipated increase in admissions to the acute mental health facility at Island Grove over the next three years

> 22 percent: Percentage of inmates at the Larimer County Detention Center receiving mental health treatment

> 36,000: The number of people in Larimer County believed to suffer from mental illness or substance abuse

> 3,600: The number of people in Larimer County believed to have co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders


AIDS Patient Sues For Marijuana Access

An AIDS patient who says he needs to smoke marijuana every day to ease nausea from his medications is suing the state of Colorado to expand access to marijuana providers.

"My medicines are really devastating. The only thing that soothes the nausea is medical marijuana," said Damien LaGoy, 47, of Denver, who is suing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 and hepatitis C a decade later. LaGoy said his cocktail of 11 medications triggers nausea that is as bad as "the worst case of the flu or food poisoning."

LaGoy is one of 1,350 users of medical marijuana registered with the state, according to Brian Vicente, head of Sensible Colorado, a group that promotes medical marijuana.

But LaGoy says it's a struggle to get it. He and Vicente say Colorado health department leaders met secretly in 2004 and decided to limit providers of medical marijuana to five patients at a time. LaGoy said he found a registered provider, also called a caretaker, only to be turned away because the provider already had a full slate of patients.

"The caregiver is the person who grows the plants and provides them to you legally and safely," LaGoy said.

He said he has not been able to find legal caretakers and has had to rely on friends who have supplied him with illegal pot or forgo his medications to prevent the nausea.

Rocky Mountain News

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Higher Ed Policy and Drug Convictions

It's one of those hush hush provisions that happens quietly without a lot of fanfare. We would like to see the law actually changed although this is a good start.

h/t to Talk Left
....the annual and aggregate limits on how much individual students can borrow from
the federal loan programs, a top priority of private college officials. Nor does
it cut the interest rate on subsidized student loans, which the House bill would
slash in half over five years.
The Senate legislation would also eliminate
from the federal financial aid application a controversial question asking
whether applicants have been convicted of drug possession while receiving
federal student aid. That question has been used to identify and strip
financial aid from thousands of students.
While the Senate bill would leave
the drug possession penalty in the law, dropping the question from the federal
financial aid form would make enforcement of the provision very difficult.
“We’re thrilled that the committee has acted to make sure that students with
drug convictions will no longer be automatically stripped of their aid and will
be able to stay in school and on the path to success,” said Tom Angell,
government relations director at Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “While it
would be more appropriate to simply erase the penalty from the lawbooks
altogether, we support the committee’s effort to make sure that students with
drug convictions can get aid just like anyone else.”

New Vaccines To Help Kick Cocaine And Meth

Interesting news about vaccines that will help people through the withdrawals. You always have to wonder about who these would be made available to and how much they would cost...

Science Daily — A pair of new vaccines
designed to combat cocaine and methamphetamine dependencies not only relieve
addiction but also minimize withdrawal symptoms, according to study results
presented today by Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) researchers at the Annual
Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in Quebec City,
The vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies which then
attack the drug while it is in the blood stream. This prevents the drug from
reaching the brain and creating the reactions that contribute to
"These are therapeutic, not preventative, vaccines," said lead
investigator Dr. Thomas Kosten, Jay H. Waggoner Professor of Psychiatry &
Behavioral Sciences at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry at BCM and
research director of the Veteran Affairs national Substance Use Disorders
Quality Enhancement Research Initiative. "They are meant for those who are
already suffering from drug addiction."
Kosten stresses that while the
vaccines have been shown to help overcome drug addictions, they do not
necessarily curb relapse.
"This is not a stand-alone treatment," Kosten said.
"There is a reason drugs were used in the first place, and that needs to be
dealt with either through counseling or behavioral therapies."

Pridefest This Weekend!!!

Join the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and the Colorado Progressive Coalition at Pridefest this weekend! We are sharing a booth and we would love it if you could stop by the booth and say "hi" We will be located at Civic Center Park on the South Side of 14th St, behind the Ampitheater and in front of the Library. It will be a beautiful day down at the park and we would love to see you all there!! The hours are from 10 - 5 both Saturday and Sunday!
Thank you for your support!!

Tagging Up Denver - WESTWORD

Who are they, why do they do what they do..here's a long and thoughtful expose on Denver's hottest crew these days.... the taggers.

He is tattooed and pierced, with heavy, sad eyes and a translucent mustache. He walks with a combination of swagger and caution, his hands sunk deep in the pockets of his baggy jeans. He is in his mid-teens — not a little kid and not an adult. Old enough for trouble but just young enough to slide beyond the grip of reprisal. a new. As in ERAse my shit and I'll write it again tonight.

He glances over his shoulder and turns down a dark alley, keeping one eye on the door of a Mexican nightclub where the manager has chased down taggers with a metal baseball bat. There are a few things he's learned. If a random car or passerby cruises up while you're painting, slink into the shadows. If it's a pissed property owner suddenly on your tail — run. The cops? Fucking fly, homie. A rival crew or some writer you've got beef with? Well, that's where things get complicated. Which is why ERA scans ahead, not necessarily for authority figures, but for other taggers and graffiti artists.

"Everybody comes to this alley," he explains, nodding his head toward a series of minivan-sized pieces (graffiti-speak for "masterpieces") painted along the cinderblock walls and warehouse doors that line the left side of the corridor. The letters are warped, slanted and abstracted in tall flares of color, nearly unreadable to those outside graffiti culture. ERA recognizes several of the names: SHEWP, ACEE, IKON. He admires the particular twists, letter forms, color schemes and shading effects that serve as earmarks of individual style.

"RTD runs these walls," he says, referring to one of the largest crews in the city. RTD has members who have consistently painted for upwards of two decades and carry national reputations. To paint on an RTD wall, one has to either be officially down with the group or be a friendly member of another well-respected crew, which explains the presence of a large piece by KOZE, the head of Denver's TKO posse. Add a writer from SWS and you'd have representatives of the top three crews in the state.

Below this trifecta of RTD, TKO and SWS is an alphabet soup of local crews: KUV, L2K, SRDOT, AM, FTK, AOM, AE, to name a few. It's a wide spectrum, ranging from art-school grads and muralists who only paint approved walls to hip-hop disciples to unabashed vandals and gun-toting tagbangers. There are twelve-year-olds and middle-aged family men who tuck their kids into bed before heading out to maintain their notorious alter egos. All of it adds up to thousands of aerosol junkies in the metro area all jostling for notoriety and respect by marking their tag name and crew letters on any and all available surfaces. To "get up" — to get it higher, to get it bigger and get it longer than anyone else.

"To get up and stay up," ERA recites like a mantra.

At the top of the game sit the so-called kings, a title often claimed but granted to only the most prolific and skilled writers. To be a king is to have a reputation that rises above neighborhoods or northside/southside bullshit. The most famous graffiti writers in the U.S. have conquered not just metropolitan areas, but entire coasts. The mega-crews that recruit this top talent can have hundreds of members in dozens of cities, spreading their ambitions across entire regions and countries. Hell, why not the whole continent?

Scrambling at the base of the hierarchy are the less proficient rookies and posers, kids who just picked up a can or older hacks who still can't cut it, often derided with the most derogatory term in the graffiti dictionary: "toy." "Toys will come here," ERA explains. "But they're not good enough to get up on the [RTD] walls, so they'll tag somebody's fence." READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE Westword

Summer Of Peace

They've created Yard Signs and lit up the City and County building in a huge media event. The proponents of the Summer of Peace speak about the Summer of Violence...

Fourteen years after Denver's deadly "Summer of Violence," former gang members stood alongside city leaders Thursday to kick off what they hope will become known as the "Summer of Peace."

The crowd of about 40 people gathered on the first day of summer in front of the City and County Building and vowed to do what they could to prevent a repeat of 1993.

Manager of Safety Al LaCabe, former Manager of Safety Fidel "Butch" Montoya, and police Chief Gerry Whitman tried to illuminate the building's tower with white and blue lights to symbolize peace.

But it was still daylight at 8 p.m. and the lights didn't shine brightly.

No matter.

The lights on the tower will be joined by others that will spell out, "Summer of Peace," on the building's facade.

"This lighting is a symbol to let people know that Denver wants peace," said Cathy Maestas, who lost her 16-year-old son, Geranimo, in 1993 to a killer who wanted his Denver Broncos jacket.

"We want to save our kids."

Maestas, who has since formed her anti-violence youth organization, No "Mo" Violence, incorporating her son's nickname, joined others standing behind LaCabe displaying their posters reading "Summer of Peace."

rocky mountain news

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Warrior Of Peace

This was a very powerful meeting (here in our office) and luckily Luke Turf from Westword did the write up...

The ceremony began with a blessing and the lighting of the sage, then an eagle’s feather was presented to a “warrior of peace,” a guest that Denver has welcomed to help end wars before, a guest that the city welcomes again to bring peace to our city’s streets.

Although despair still runs deep in the hood, hope and peace can be found, Aqeela Sherrills told the crowd of about 75 gathered at the Denver Inner City Parish. But people shouldn’t wait for a new leader to bring them peace. No Malcolm X, no Martin Luther King Jr., no Cesar Chavez will take them there.

Each must find their own way.

“Kids fight, that’s just our way of getting to know each other,” Sherrills told the crowd.

But as a kid growing up in Watts, 2.2 miles of the hardest ‘hood in the country, he had no idea that the natural instinct of conflict could lead to such war. After a kid named Night Owl was killed, a key death in the events leading up to the wars of Crips and Bloods, the homies all told Sherrill to claim his side of the tracks when asked and to throw punches when questioned. He took the advice and was drafted into the war which escalated each year until crack hit the streets, turning women to hos and giving gangsters larger caches of weapons. The streets exploded.

Sherrill escaped with his life and even made it to college in the midst of the war. He opened his mind and his heart, discovering that part of what lead him to gang-bangin’ was a sexual assault that he experienced as a kid. Around-the-way, common perception is that victims of sex offenses grow up to be offenders or gay, both taboos in the projects that Sherrill wanted no part of. He never shared his frustration, his humiliation or his anger. Read the Rest here at Westword Blog

Mental Breakdown -- Colorado

The Fort Collins Weekly published this piece on the difficulty of being poor and mentally ill in Colorado. The intersection between substance abuse and mental illness may not be obvious to some but we are using our jails as warehouses for those who can't get treatment. Larimer County doesn't have beds for treatment available at all, with folks having to go to Greeley to get help. Read the whole article if you have time

The mental health care system of today is often considered a rat maze by those wandering through its overloaded, underfunded and fragmented labyrinth.

When a person has a mental illness, getting the needed services is often a hit or miss task.

Of course there are private psychiatrists for those who can afford then or for those who have insurance that covers the service. But for the many who do not have health insurance or whose insurance does not pay for mental health care and who cannot afford to pay for the help out of pocket, treating a mental illness becomes much more difficult. Public funding is limited and public services for the mentally ill are not enough to cover the needs of the estimated 36,000 Larimer County residents who suffer from mental illness and substance use disorders. Each year, funds from insurance and federal and state sources come millions of dollars short of covering those in Larimer County who are uninsured and cannot pay for the cost of care.

Add to that the stigma many feel about acknowledging their mental illness and the side effects of medications, and it is no wonder that so many people go untreated. In 2002, a report produced for the Colorado legislature found that 66,453 Coloradans go without needed mental health care services.

And while untreated mental illnesses can wear on sufferers, it can also take its toll on the entire community: families, law enforcement, jails, homelessness, businesses and emergency services all suffer.

Guantanamo Poetry To Be Released

MIAMI (Reuters) - Poems written by Guantanamo prisoners about their lives as captives of the United States have been compiled in a book that will be published this summer with an endorsement from a former U.S. poet laureate.

"Poems From Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak" is being published by the University of Iowa Press and will hit the shelves by August, the publisher said. The 84-page volume was assembled by lawyers representing captives held as suspected terrorists at the much-criticized U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

Marc Falkoff, an assistant law professor at Northern Illinois University who has represented 17 Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo, compiled the poems. He said most expressed religious faith, nostalgia for childhood homes or yearning for family.

Others are angry, disillusioned or questioning, like one written as a conversation with the surrounding sea.

"Do our chains offend you? ... You are taunting us in our captivity," Falkoff read from a poem in a telephone interview. "I want to dive into you and swim back to my home."

"He's saying, 'I'm stuck here on a prison island and you, the sea, are being complicit with my captors and guarding me.'"

Some of the poems were originally scratched out with pebbles on foam cups that came with prisoners' meals, got confiscated by guards and were rewritten from memory after the prisoners were released, Falkoff said. Others were written by captives among the 375 still at Guantanamo.


Lines At DMV Could Get Worse

he lines for getting a driver's license are often long now, but they could get even worse.

If the federal Real ID Act takes effect next May, as planned, the number of people showing up at Division of Motor Vehicles offices could grow six-fold.

That's because all 3.8 million residents with Colorado identification will be required to show up in person to have their photo and documentation checked, instead of renewing by mail, said Debora Jerome, project coordinator for the state driver's license administration.

The federal Real ID Act is controversial, with privacy activists condemning it, and dozens of state legislatures critical.

Montana and Washington have flat refused to comply, even though driver's licenses issued by those states could no longer be used to fly commercially or enter federal buildings. Two dozen Congress members are ready to repeal it.

Colorado is not among the states objecting. Colorado already has in place many of the new federal requirements — and it already has the long lines predicted nationwide if the Real ID Act takes effect.

But because the federal law says everyone who is renewing a license or Colorado ID must appear in person, the workload would multiply.

State officials have yet to even discuss expanding staff to match.

Due to budget cuts, Colorado's DMV staff stands at 191 statewide, the same as in 1969 when half as many people lived here. Another 53 are to be added this year.

Officials said earlier this week that 40 percent of the people coming into DMV offices spend hours in line and then leave without a license. Most do not bring accepted identification documents in their legal name — the one on the federal Social Security database. Officials hope to ease that problem by teaching citizens to bring the right paperwork the first time.

Rocky Mountain News

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hillary's New Campaign Song

Hillary and the Soprano's
h/t to Colorado Confidential

Huge Decline In Meth Labs

Keeping with national trends, the Larimer County Drug Task Force encountered far fewer methamphetamine labs last year than it had in previous years, pointing to a decrease in availability of the highly addictive drug.

Last year, the 19-officer, multi-agency task force dismantled seven meth labs, down from 19 the previous year and 20 in 2003, according to statistics from the agency.

"Everyone has identified (meth) as a problem and everyone is dealing with it," said Lt. Craig Dodd, who heads the task force. "We're having success in reducing the availability of meth in our community."

Nationwide, the number of busted meth labs has drastically declined since 2003, according to numbers from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Drug Intelligence Center, dropping from 10,212 to 2,159 through the first nine months of 2006.

The local one-year decline could be attributed to an investigation that took up much of the task force's time. That investigation eventually broke up a regional meth distribution ring, Dodd said. More than 70 people were implicated in that ring, he said.

"But when you do that, you're actually going to have more of an impact on the safety of the community," he said.

Similarly, the District Attorney's Office for the 8th Judicial District, which covers Larimer and Jackson counties, saw a sharp decline in the number of felony drug charges filed last year, dropping from 1,060 to 705.

"You can't say that's a trend," District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said. "You can't attribute any specific significance to a one-year drop."

What is more significant, Abrahamson said, is the continuing increase in charges filed for fraud and property crimes.

"Those are pretty indicative of drug usage," he said.

A decrease in the number of meth labs does not mean meth is no longer available in the region, Dodd said. The drug is now transported from Mexico, he said.

New Private Prison Corruption - Cornell in Alaska

Politicians, corruption and private prisons just go hand in hand...Cornell is currently trying to build a 1500 bed women's prison in Hudson, Colorado. They sold it to the voters as a 750-bed women's prison. The odd thing is that we couldn't fill that prison for at least a decade, our growth in the women's prison population isn't even keeping our current women's prisons full. So what are they really trying to do up there in Hudson?

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- New details are emerging in the government's corruption probe against former state Rep. Tom Anderson as attorneys prepare for his trial Monday.

The government has filed a trial brief laying out who is involved, how the pitch was made and the meetings and actions it says Anderson took.

Anderson's attorney wouldn't comment on the details, but said he is outraged at the inclusion of what appear to be references to Anderson's wife, Sen. Lesil McGuire.

The brief also makes it clear that other, unrelated investigations were underway when the federal government's unnamed source was approached to participate in a bribery scheme.

Based on court records and sources close to the investigation, Channel 2 News believes the confidential source who allegedly recorded every move is former lobbyist Frank Prewitt.

Prewitt worked for Texas-based Cornell Companies, a private firm looking to open a private prison in Alaska and a juvenile treatment facility in Anchorage. The company also runs halfway houses throughout the state.

Anderson is accused of taking money from the government source on behalf of Cornell in exchange for official acts.

Another lobbyist, Bill Bobrick, has already entered a guilty plea in connection with the scheme. He is expected to testify at Anderson's trial.

In the trial brief, prosecutors cite a recording in which Bobrick tries to convince the informant the scheme was worth the money, suggesting Cornell would have two legislators working for them in Juneau because of Anderson's romantic involvement with another lawmaker.

"Cornell would get two legislators," Bobrick is quoted as saying. "You know, chair of labor and commerce, and chair of judiciary ... That's the minimum we're going to have next year."

There has been no public link between the prison case and other corruption cases, including the VECO bribery claims. However, VECO Corp. and Cornell do have a relationship -- in 2003, VECO and Cornell Companies teamed up on trying to get a private prison built in Whittier.NEWS ARTICLE

Jail Budget Exploding

It's actually pretty apalling when you see how calm they are about this extra 50 million dollars, when they nickel and dime us to death on treatment dollars. I can only imagine how many lives could actually be saved and how much safer the community would actually be if that money would have been funneled into lives instead of into bricks and mortar.

The cost to build Denver’s new jail and courthouse has been a big secret at City Hall for months.

No wonder.

The price tag has increased by $51.6 million because of the rising cost of construction materials.

The projected cost of the two buildings is now $265.5 million, a 24 percent increase over the original budget of $214 million.

When RTD announced last month that FasTracks was nearly $1.5 billion over budget and Mayor John Hickenlooper said the city was "in the same position" with the justice center, imaginations ran wild.

But James Mejia, justice center policy manager, said today the city should be able to cover the increase through premiums from the sale of general obligation bonds, interest earnings and project contingencies.

"We’re not having to go back to ask for more money," he said.

"We’re reallocating from elsewhere in the budget to stay within our overall budget," he added.

Hickenlooper called it a "remarkable achievement" that the project is within budget "despite the incredible rise in basic commodities, like steel and concrete, which have (increased) between 60 (percent) and 150 percent since the project started."

"It really reflects on a great team," the mayor said.

Mejia will ask a City Council committee on Wednesday to endorse a $265.6 million contract with Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to build the jail and courthouse as part of the nearly $400 million Denver Justice Center project, which also includes improvements to Smith Road and a new post office on West 14th Avenue.

If it gets committee approval, the contract would go before the full council for first reading July 9.

Under the current schedule, the jail would be finished in December 2009 and the courthouse would be completed in May 2010.

The original construction budget was $115 million for the jail and $99.1 million for the courthouse.

Rocky Mountain News

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Attendance and DPS

I don't think adding an element of criminality to school makes school any better. We can't add a component as drastic as the criminal justice system to our education system. We have enough problems keeping our kids out of the system for trivial school problems that can be dealt with in a host of other ways without using the CJ system as a catchall. Why not figure out why kids are out of school and address those issues first.

Denver Public Schools may consider making attendance a factor in whether students pass or fail a grade, after an analysis found some students skipped as much as a third of the past school year.

"We just want to put it on the table," said Happy Haynes, a DPS administrator who worked on the analysis, adding, "It's controversial."

Linking attendance to promotion and retention was among the ideas mentioned Monday after Denver School Board members received what is believed to be the district's first in-depth look at attendance in years.

The results confirmed what many already suspected: Large numbers of middle and high school students are skipping big chunks of the school year.

West High School reported the worst rate, with 42 percent of its students missing more than 65 days in 2006-07. That's more than a third of the 173.5 days of the past school year.

School board members made no decisions during Monday night's informal work session. Instead, they listened as Haynes, assistant to the superintendent for community partnerships, presented the analysis along with Glenna Norvelle, special assistant to the superintendent.

The two also offered possible ways to address the issue, ranging from incentives such as movie passes for students with improved attendance to a "stipulated agreement" to get students' attention before they end up in juvenile court for truancy.

Norvelle said the agreement, worked out with the juvenile court system, allows students to avoid going to court provided they meet terms set out by DPS.

"We want to get their attention earlier in the process," she said, "before they show up in court."

Several board members said a districtwide attendance policy may be needed because schools vary in the handling of absences.

Board member Michelle Moss said some principals appear to have a policy of "after X number of absences, you don't get credit" for classes. Board President Theresa Peña said there's confusion over whether students are kicked out of school after missing 20 straight days.

Consequences have been "very inconsistently applied school to school," Haynes said.

The analysis found one effort to improve attendance, closing high school campuses at lunchtime, has had little impact. But board members did not seem inclined to change the initiative, begun last fall. Some said they believe it will make a difference as principals figure out better ways to enforce it.

Superintendent Michael Bennet said the analysis represents more than a year's work to create a system that breaks down attendance - by school, by grade, by subject, even by teacher. Nine high school teachers averaged student attendance rates of 97 percent or higher in 2006-07.

"When school opens next year, on a weekly or daily basis, we can generate the reports you see here," he told the board. "So we can say to schools, hey, you're in the bottom third in attendance this month; we don't want to see this next month."

Haynes said the data will allow DPS to pinpoint best practices and ask questions, such as "How are those six high school teachers getting 97 percent attendance rates?"

12,000 Rejected For ID's

Ann Imse at the Rocky Mountain News found out just how much fun this isn't..

Rocky reporter Ann Imse got of glimpse of Colorado's document requirements.On Monday, I learned just how tough it is to get a driver's license in this state. I discovered that even with my current license and current passport, I would not be able to renew my license. I've lived here 18 years. Department of Revenue Director Roxy Huber said my name and Social Security number would be punched into the federal Social Security database and it would reply, "No match."

That's because my parents used my middle name, Elizabeth, when they requested a Social Security number for me. I haven't used my middle name since college. My family name is so rare that I'm the only Ann Imse in the United States anyway. So Elizabeth is not on my driver's license, and it's not on my passport. But it's part of my legal name. Huber recommended I find my birth certificate. That may be easier said than done. It's filed at home under "warranties." I hope.

rocky mountain news

Colorado's top official in charge of issuing driver's licenses on Monday dismissed concerns that the state's rules make it too easy to get a state-issued ID.

Since February, the state has rejected 12,000 applicants seeking Colorado driver's licenses and identification cards, said Roxy Huber, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Applicants must "always prove identity and lawful presence before we grant a driver's license," Huber said at a meeting with the Transportation Legislation Review Committee.

Most of the 12,000 returned with the proper records to prove they qualified for a state-issued ID, Huber said. Overall, the state has issued 282,956 ID cards and driver's licenses since February.

Huber's comments to the committee came in the wake of Gov. Bill Ritter's veto of a controversial bill that would have forced the state to accept documents that it currently doesn't allow.

House Bill 1313 would have made it easier for some applicants to prove their identity by allowing the use of insurance records, marriage certificates or tax returns.

Huber said her department has a duty to verify identity and legal U.S. residency and that the bill "would have required us to accept something that would not have provided both."

Instead, the department has established rules to handle the tough cases when applicants don't have the proper records. Those rules provide an appeals process to investigate the applications.

"What the rules do is create a process," Huber said. "What 1313 did is create a requirement

Denver Post

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nationwide Corrections Spending

Thanks to Sentencing Law and Policy for pointing out this thorough report on corrections spending nationwide. A good state by state analysis on what folks are doing.

For most states, corrections funding represents a relatively small portion of the budget, on average accounting for about 6 percent of general fund spending. But even 6 percent represents a lot of money: States spent nearly $35.6 billion on corrections in fiscal year (FY) 2006 and budgeted $37.6 billion for FY 2007. Mounting pressures will continue to boost corrections spending. States point to escalating inmate health care costs, overcrowded prisons and rising personnel expenses as principal drivers. These and other factors help explain state funding growth in FY 2006 and FY 2007.

Corrections Expenditures in FY 2006

Nationally, FY 2006 general fund corrections spending grew 10 percent above FY 2005 levels. This was the fastest growing category of the four spending areas that NCSL tracks in its State Budget Actions reports and well above what policymakers expected: they had budgeted corrections to grow 4.1 percen

Does ADHD Treatment Increase Risk Of Drug Abuse?

Science Daily Parents, doctors, and others have wondered whether common treatments for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) inadvertently predispose adolescents to future drug abuse. The answer may depend on the age at which treatment is started and how long it lasts, say the authors of a new brain-imaging and behavioral study conducted in animals at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.

"Our study shows that the brain's reward pathways are definitely influenced by methylphenidate, one of the stimulant drugs commonly used to treat ADHD," said Brookhaven researcher Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, lead author of the study. "But the brain chemistry changes we observed suggest that the developmental stage at which treatment begins and the duration of treatment are important variables that need further study."

In the study, rats were given methylphenidate mixed with distilled water beginning one month after birth -- early adolescence for rats. Animals received either 1 or 2 milligrams methylphenidate per kilogram of body weight, consistent with clinical doses given to children with ADHD. A control group of rats was handled under identical conditions but given plain water.

After two months of treatment, and again after eight months, the scientists performed positron emission tomography (PET) scans to measure the levels of dopamine D2 receptors, a type of brain receptor important for experiencing reward and pleasure that has been linked to pleasure and drug abuse. After the eight-month treatment, animals were also tested for their propensity to self-administer cocaine. Read the article on Science Daily

Judicial Conduct - More Transparency

One judge sexually harassed an employee. Another pleaded guilty to drinking and driving. And a part-time judge heard a case involving a client of his firm.

Those are some of the examples of misconduct cited by Colorado's Commission on Judicial Discipline.

But the commission won't reveal the identity of judges accused of misconduct or what happens to complaints against them unless they reach the most serious level - a recommendation to the state Supreme Court to discipline a judge. That hasn't happened in Colorado since 1986, when William L. Jones, a district judge, was publicly reprimanded for delaying a decision on a case.

The cloak of secrecy under which the disciplinary system operates puts Colorado in the minority - along with just 14 other states and the District of Columbia.

"There is a 'trust me and stop asking questions' attitude," said John Andrews, former president of the Colorado Senate and one of the most outspoken critics of the state's judicial system.

"Trust me and shut up. That's sort of the message that lawyers and judges send to the public."

Colorado's Commission on Judicial Discipline was set up in 1966 to police the district court level of the judiciary and below. Citizens, judges and attorneys sit on the 10-member panel.

Rocky Mountain News