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.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Graffiti Bill Too Broad

I am so glad someone has some sense. Driving through Wash Park this last weekend and saw a forty-something Wash Parktonian spray painting a traffic box with a can of silver paint. Hmmm.....

A bill that would make it a crime to possess "graffiti tools" got a cold reception from a House committee Wednesday, with several lawmakers saying enforcing the proposal would be difficult.

Ultimately, the House Judiciary Committee did not vote on House Bill 1023. Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, chairman of the committee, said the bill would have to be substantially reworked before the panel would consider it again.

Even before the hearing, he cited concerns about profiling, saying the bill could give "carte blanche for law enforcement to go after teenagers."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Jefferson County, would make it a misdemeanor to possess graffiti tools with the intent to use them to deface private or public property. It does not define what graffiti tools are.

And that was part of the problem several lawmakers from both parties had with the bill.

"How this would be interpreted and applied is troublesome to me," said Rep. Debbie Stafford, D-Aurora.

Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, said the proposal "violates substantive due process" in its current form.

Kerr said the bill was prompted by increased graffiti activity, including some in state parks. The measure was essentially crafted in the mold of a current state law making it a crime to possess "burglary tools."

Mark Randall, legislative director for the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, represented one of several law-enforcement groups that testified in favor of the bill. He said the burglary-tools law has been upheld in court, and he saw no constitutional problems with Kerr's bill.

Randall stressed that, as with the burglary- tools law, prosecutors would have to prove the person possessing graffiti tools intended to use them to commit a crime.

But Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which opposed the measure, said using the same approach to combat graffiti was fraught with problems.

"You have to know the elements of the crime before you can be convicted of it," Hazouri said. "Who knows what a graffiti tool is?"

She said there are far fewer legitimate uses for burglary tools — such as slim jims and lock picks — than there are for items that are also used for graffiti.

Some supporters of the bill said they didn't want to list items that might be graffiti tools because vandals would find loopholes in the list.

But Kerr said graffiti tools could include markers, spray paint, nozzles and even ladders.

Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said items that might be deemed graffiti tools are commonplace. Markers and spray paint can be found in many schools, she said.

"My garage is a walking misdemeanor," she said.

Denver already prohibits the sale of graffiti materials such as spray paint and broad-tipped markers to those under 18. And the city recently tightened its requirements on property owners to clean up graffiti.

The Denver Post