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, June 27, 2008

Inmates See The Forest For The Keys

They work hard all day, make enough money to save something for when they are released and the recidivism rate is 50 percent less than the rest of the state.

Colorado convicts armed with chain saws are cutting lodgepole in beetle-decimated forests and, in doing so, shaving time from their sentences under a new alliance between state prisons and federal forest officials.

"The last 10 years, I've been behind razor wire," said Daniel Martinez, 29, who is serving a prison term for menacing. "Now I'm able to enjoy nature, and it's going to get me back to my family faster."

Martinez is one of two dozen minimum-security prisoners from Buena Vista Correctional Facility who for several weeks have been sleeping in tents in the Arapaho National Forest north of Silverthorne while clearing pines whose needles have turned red under the assault of bark beetles.

In the wake of a seven-year drought

pines in three national forests in Colorado, the beetles have destroyed 1.5 million acres of lodgepole, said Jim Krugman of the U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service closed 38 camping areas in Colorado over the past several years because groves of dead trees are a safety hazard, said Clint Kyle, bark-beetle incident commander for the agency.

"There's a great risk that a wind will blow them down," Krugman said. "Our concern is for safety."

Colorado Department of Corrections officials this year offered the services of the State Wildland Inmate Fire Team for a fee that covers the expense of guarding, feeding, paying and equipping the inmates, said Jack Laughlin, service division manager of Colorado Correctional Industries, which runs the program.

"It's a win-win-win type of thing," Laughlin said.

Colorado pays inmates up to $3 a day, and they can earn a portion of a monthly bonus paid by the Forest Service, he said.

Krugman said federal officials get services at half what it would cost privately.

It's not easy work, Laughlin said.

The crews work up to 14 hours a day, cutting logs with chain saws, carrying the wood to trucks and stacking branches into huge piles.

Two staff members supervise 24 inmates, Laughlin said.

But Martinez said there is no incentive to escape, though it would be easy enough to do.

"If you get caught, you can do 12 years," he said.

In six years, not one of the 300 members of the inmate firefighting crews has escaped, Laughlin said.

Only 25 percent of the offenders who have since been released have violated their parole terms or committed new crimes, Laughlin said.

Martinez heard about the program when he was in a prison on the Eastern Plains. He asked to be transferred to Buena Vista to join and had to go six months without a disciplinary action before he could be considered.

"The rules are strict," Martinez said. "You can get written up for not tucking in your shirt. But it's a privilege to be in this program."

For every day they participate, they are credited for an extra day off their sentence, Laughlin said.

"At the end of the day," Martinez said, "I feel like I've accomplished something."

The Denver Post


Anonymous said...

Again, evidence of the communist regime at the DOC is farming out jobs that would be done by private industry.
$3 a day is better than the 60 cents a day that DOC gives some of them. They are able to afford more than state issued hygiene. They do not have to beg and con their families into sending them money, who then have to pay JPAY huge percentage fees, for which DOC "shares".
If these inmates were given skills AND a job when they get out from this program and not just dumped into a homeless shelter, this might make sense.
At least they are not breaking up rocks like the inmates at Territorial in the last century that made Skyline road, above their prison that comes from nowhere and goes no where.
Meanwhile 542 community corrections beds are empty due to the lack of leadership and proper administration of DOC.

Anonymous said...

If only we could make John Q. Public aware of the great opportunity they would have if the DOC had the nuts to expand programs like this. Lower recidivism, introducing those who don't know how to earn their keep legally what it feels like to do so, AND be able to take that experience back to the street. AND the simple concept of giving grown men and women something to occupy all their time while they're down INSTEAD of the status quo. The only failure by the inmates here would be what it has always been. The few screwin' it up for the many. If one idiot escapes and does something stupid... But I'm more than confident that a rigid screening process could avoid that. If only John Q. Public knew what he/she could save financially, and how she/he actually HELP a man or woman who has faltered somehow in their life. That among SO MANY OTHER GOOD THINGS. Then maybe we could truly call it the Dept. of CORRECTIONS... NOT the Dept. of Manipulations...

Anonymous said...

why should one have to go to prison to recieve job training like this,is there a chance to get programs like this for people on the outside before they end up in prison,
i worked on a crew doing the same thing in buena vista , back then we only got paid 68 cents and had to work like slaves but it was great to out in nature and to be without a fence for awhile , we had to return each evening so that sucked..
keep programs like this working and get something like this for people who have paroled or been released so they dont come back ,it would be worth every penny to do something like this ...

Anonymous said...