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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting Ready For Reentry in Arizona

When Edward Maxwell III arrived at Arizona’s Lewis prison near Phoenix, he nearly hit rock bottom. The job assigned to the man convicted of first-degree murder was raking – rocks.

The task befit the hopeless place, where in 2004, Lewis inmates held two officers hostage for 15 days, the longest such standoff in United States history.

But that was then.

Today, the head of Arizona corrections says violence inside state prisons has sharply decreased, and released inmates are less likely to return to prison. It’s the result of a new public policy innovation, Arizona officials say, that begins preparing prisoners for reentry to society from their first day in prison. Arizona’s “Getting Ready” program is garnering nationwide attention, as states face skyrocketing incarceration and release rates.

“You start to think about your future more and what you can offer your family, your community, and even the people you victimized,” says Mr. Maxwell in a telephone interview. He has been in prison for 22 years and will be eligible for parole in 2011.

Before Getting Ready, prisoners had no autonomy, says Dora Schriro, director of Arizona Corrections, a system of some 38,000 inmates in 10 prison complexes. They were told when to eat, when to sleep, and not helped to develop positive pastimes. They were ill-prepared to reenter society.

“A good inmate [was someone] who sits in their bunk, follows orders, never talks back. A bad ex-offender will lay on the bed, doesn’t get a job.… Someone who doesn’t learn how to use leisure time,” Ms. Schriro says.

Getting Ready upends those expectations, she says. Within one week of entry, inmates receive a needs assessment and individualized corrections plan. They’re expected to participate in work or education, self-development, and restorative-justice activities seven days a week. Benefits are tied to accomplishing goals.

Implemented in 2004 with significant input from correctional officers, community members, and prisoners, Getting Ready creates a “parallel universe” in prison, reflecting as much of the outside world’s challenges and opportunities as possible.

Christian Science Monitor