Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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

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

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


Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Tragedy Of Jail - Denver Post Editorial

"Coloradoans are rarely sent to prison for using drugs" Ninety percent of the people in prison have a drug or alcohol problem. Over twenty percent of our prison population is in prison for drugs. That's nearly 8,000 people. That's not a rarity. If the author of this article is intimating that people rarely go to prison when they are caught the first time with small amounts of drugs he is mostly correct. We do have drug courts in some places in Colorado but the failure rate on probation is nearly as high as the failure rate on parole. There still needs to be a funding stream for treatment in Colorado. We are ranked 49th in the nation for treatment dollars. If this administration is truly committed to slowing prison growth, they need to examine the roads to, through and out of prison.


Denver Post - Joseph Stalin once observed, "A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic."

So here's a statistic to ponder: More than one in 100 adult Americans are in jail or prison.

Putting it another way, that's 2.3 million individual tragedies.

Here are more tragedies:

• State governments spend nearly $50 billion a year keeping people locked up. Colorado alone is spending $704 million on prisons this year, an 8.2 percent increase over last year's budget and almost as much as the $746 million the state spends to support higher education. In 1980, prisons took just 2.6 percent of the general fund, while 22 percent went to higher education. Today, prisons and colleges each receive about 10 percent of the general fund.

• America leads the world in both the number and the percentage of its incarcerated population — with many more people behind bars than even second-place China, whose population of 1.3 billion residents is four times that of the U.S.

• The burden of incarceration falls most heavily on minority males. One-ninth of all black men age 20 to 34 are behind bars.

These statistics come from a report released this past week by the Pew Center on the States and this year's state budget.

The Pew report attributes much of the ballooning prison population to tougher state and federal sentencing rules imposed since the mid-1980s. Imposing longer sentences on repeat offenders has reduced crime rates somewhat. But the Pew report also documents that for the nonviolent criminals who make up about half of the incarcerated population, alternative punishments such as community corrections and mandatory drug treatment can be more effective than draconian sentences at reducing repeat offenses for far less cost.

Colorado, which has literally doubled and redoubled sentences for some crimes in the last 30 years, began some modest reforms in 2003 when Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, won passage of a bill that increased treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for inmates.

Coloradans are rarely sent to prison for using drugs, but drug or alcohol abuse is a factor in 75 percent of the crimes that land people in our prisons. In short, an offender may have been sent to prison for robbing a liquor store, but he committed the robbery to get money for drugs.

By treating the underlying addictions that often lead to crimes, Gordon's more enlightened approach — now being expanded by Gov. Bill Ritter — has finally begun to slow the growth of prison costs in Colorado. Ritter has asked for just a 6 percent increase in next year's prison budget, the smallest such increase since 1992.

That reduction in the rate of growth in our prison system is a modest first step toward reducing what can be the tragedy of crime and imprisonment. Colorado should continue pursuing better and more cost-effective ways to bring down our crime rate.


The Denver Post

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

A slow process but a process nonetheless... Ritter needs to speed it up, and become more aware of the fact that the privatization of treatment centers and halfway houses works against the ultimate goal because the ultimate goal of these private companies is their bottome line, not what's in the best interest of 'the offender'... If these so called 'leaders' had any true sense of how to proceed with making the D.O.C. become less disfunctional and more effective, they should consider drawing on the experience that those of us who have gone through it posess. It can only allow for OBJECTIVITY. Especially if those of us are objective about what we have gone through, why, and how it can make us better 'citizens' in the future. After all, isn't that what it's all about? CORRECTION...

Francy said...

Occasionally you hear people say things like, Hey, so and so just went to Drug Rehabilitation Center. Just as often, you will hear that the individual completed the rehab program and began abusing substances immediately upon returning home. This scenario is not unusual. Conventional drug rehab programs (including alcohol rehabilitation programs) here in America are predominantly 12 step oriented. This model of recovery comes out of the 1935 first century Christian temperance movement now known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Through the last seventy years, America has adapted this AA philosophy into several different recovery models, all of which have a different name but the same method. There is the Minnesota Model of recovery, the disease model of alcoholism (and drug addiction), and countless others that adopt the credo that substance abusers require a drug rehab program if the participant expects to survive

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