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.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Reconstructing Lives

The heavy equipment program is always touted as the program that is the most successful in the Department of Corrections. It is the best, by far, to help people get good jobs when they get out. The numbers aren't good enough though. 108 people have been through the program in 12 years. It's easy to see that we need programs like this that will allow people to get good sustainable jobs when they get out. Although with 30,000 people in the system, what we currently have in place simply isn't enough.

BUENA VISTA — Dennis Cisneros was known as the Radio Shack bandit on Denver's streets and as Crazy Horse in Colorado prisons. The 45-year-old career robber spent most of his adult years behind bars, where he was caught fighting, using heroin and cursing guards so often that he logged 11 months in "the hole" in just one year.

Cisneros' prospect for reform was so remote that a judge told him at his last sentencing, in 2005, that punishment was the only objective in sending him to prison.

But now, when gang members taunt Cisneros in the prison cafeteria, he turns the other way, and each day he rises at 4:30 a.m. for a 10-hour day that will pay him 60 cents.

Nine months ago, Cisneros joined a prison heavy-equipment vocational-training program at the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, and every day he drives bulldozers, front-end loaders and dump trucks. The program has helped change his outlook, and he has not taken a single disciplinary misstep since.

Cisneros believes he is learning skills that will make him an attractive job candidate for construction companies when he is paroled, perhaps as early as September.

All grads have found jobs

Department of Corrections employee Tom Bowen proposed the program because he saw so many convicts revolving through the system.

"So many guys had no training," he said. "Some had not worked a day in their lives."

Since the program was formed in 1996, 170 inmates have enrolled in it, and all 108 who graduated have found industry jobs. Inmates can learn how to operate seven types of heavy equipment, Bowen said, and dozens are employed by Denver-area construction companies, where they're making between $14 and $35 an hour.

Bowen, who is close to retirement, has been asked to act as a consultant to set up similar heavy-equipment vocational programs at other Colorado prisons. The program meshes with Gov. Bill Ritter's push to teach inmates skills to reduce recidivism, Bowen said.


Richard Jennings said...

Yes unemployment is up as a statistic but every one person that wants to find a job can if they choose to. Lots of 75k, 100K and 150K jobs left...see for yourself.


Stats are just stats...

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is a great program and people in prisons, need all the edges they can get to get employment once they get out. One draw back to this program, is that they are offered to prisoners who have a long time befor parole. They should give them to people who are going to get out soon. It does not take that long to learn to drive these equipment.

Anonymous said...