Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rell Announces Parole System Changes



LAST July, when two parolees were charged with murder in the slayings of a woman and her two daughters during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut’s criminal justice system was exposed like never before. Particularly troubling to lawmakers was that the system had classified both parolees as low-risk nonviolent offenders.

“It destroyed the state’s confidence in the criminal justice system,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell said last Tuesday as she unveiled her proposals to strengthen the system.

Mrs. Rell, a Republican, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supported most of her proposals, which include tougher penalties for home invasions and burglaries committed at night; the creation of a full-time parole board; and establishing an information technology system that would allow the police, prosecutors, parole officials and prison personnel to share information on offenders.

The House speaker, James A. Amann, a Democrat from Milford, said leaders from both parties would meet with Mrs. Rell to try to reach consensus on a so-called three-strikes law, so far the most likely sticking point in negotiations. The state’s existing persistent offender laws are considered weak and useful mainly to prosecutors negotiating plea bargains. Mrs. Rell wants to subject some three-time violent offenders to life in prison, but allow them to appeal after 30 years to a judge, not a parole board.

Derek Slap, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, said Democratic lawmakers were closer to Mrs. Rell’s position on strengthening sentences for repeat offenders than their Republican counterparts were. Democrats and Mrs. Rell want to leave room for some level of judicial discretion, while some Republican proposals would automatically mandate life sentences for career criminals.

Democrats who opposed taking away judges’ discretion in sentencing thought they had an ally in John A. Danaher III, the state public safety commissioner, after he testified at a hearing in November that three-strike laws carried the risk of increasing the dangers faced by police officers, since criminals with at least two violent convictions may be more prone to violence to avoid capture a third time. “They have nothing left to lose,” Mr. Danaher testified.

New York Times