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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MA _Cheap Trick - Reform Imminent Because Of Budget Woes

AFTER MORE THAN a decade of tough-on-crime policies — fueled by 13 years of Republican administrations committed to re-introducing prisoners to the joys of lethal injection — the law-and-order atmosphere at the Massachusetts State House has begun to dissipate. A case in point: two bills recently filed on Beacon Hill that take aim at the state’s draconian mandatory-minimum-sentence drug laws.

The first measure, known as Senate Bill 167, would make drug offenders who have already served two-thirds of mandatory-minimum sentences eligible for parole — something that they currently cannot seek, unlike rapists, armed robbers, and child molesters, who are not subject to mandatory minimums. Sponsored by State Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), Senate Bill 167 constitutes a kind of baby step toward reform. The proposal does not repeal mandatory minimums for drug convictions. Nor does it offer a get-out-of-jail-free card for the thousands of drug offenders who’re now languishing in the state’s 22 correctional facilities. It simply tries to ease the impact of these sentences for those who’ve done substantial time.

Senate Bill 167 also dovetails with a much larger reform effort that would moderate the mandatory-sentencing drug laws. That bill, known as House Bill 3302, would institute a comprehensive set of sentencing guidelines for all the state’s 1922 statutory crimes. Under the guidelines, judges would be allowed to depart from the rigid penalties dictated by the mandatory-sentencing drug laws and instead sentence addicts to treatment and intense supervision. The bill, sponsored by State Representative David Linsky (D-Natick), mirrors legislation first drafted seven years ago by the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, a state agency dedicated to overhauling the criminal-justice system — legislation that has died at the State House every single session since.

But in these tough fiscal times, such sentencing reforms are gaining ground. Senate Bill 167, in fact, has extra appeal. According to the Sentencing Commission, approximately 2000 prisoners are currently serving mandatory minimums — out of close to 20,000 county and state prisoners. Of those, 650 people would be eligible for parole immediately if Senate Bill 167 were to pass. The commission estimates that up to 325 of these drug offenders would receive parole in the first wave. Given that it costs $36,000 per year to house one prisoner, the measure could save as much as $11.7 million almost instantly. These savings were highlighted at a packed, 100-strong May 21 hearing on the two bills before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Criminal Justice — which is expected to recommend the bills in upcoming weeks. Numerous organizations, including the Sentencing Commission, the Supreme Judicial Court, and local and state bar associations, spoke in favor of the proposed legislation.

Boston Phoenix